Somehow I do not feel protected but there I am anyway, associating with those who claim to be vaccinated, as am I, still wearing that damned mask, still offered a fresh one if I step into a store after neglecting to bring one.
With “the official start of summer” in the rear-view mirror, this should feel like New Year’s Eve, but warmer: celebrating with friends, looking forward to a new start, all that stuff. The state offers regular reductions in limitations, and they fall off like protective armor, one piece after another. Last week I could go to the movies. This week I can remain in a bar as long as the bartender allows it.
Thus begins our Roaring Twenties, a headlong gallop of happiness and good times, as predicted by the last century’s Roaring Twenties, which was propped by a Wall Street bull market of epic proportion and ended with the Great Depression. Nazism got its start, too.
Our next version of letting the good times roll is demand-driven, and the reason the prices of beef and chicken are high: a decrease in the number of cattle and poultry, some snags in the delivery and logistics systems — processing personnel and truck drivers are scarce at the moment — and the prices go up, at least temporarily. So there is big-time demand for everything we missed in the past year-and-a-half or so. Wait until the economy sees what we’ve learned to do without.
One sector that has boomed during the pandemic was home renovation. Those able to afford their mortgages spent money on property upgrades, making me wonder: now that someone’s house is as comfortable as the owner can make it, and he or she has figured out how to stream a movie on an oversized television or computer monitor, will there be much desire to go to the movies? The recent box office news for films recently released after being clogged up for months says yes. I have my doubts, long-term.
I hark back to things I saw in movie theaters long ago, and I’m not talking about gymnastics in the balcony. I refer to short advertisements touting the evils of “pay television,” which featured crude cartoons of living room televisions with scowls on their screens, grabby arms protruding from the sides and some sort of coin slot, implying that you put change in the television to watch what you’d ordinarily see in a theater.
It did not work out that way. Putting movies on television increased interest in movies, the way live sports on television prods people to attend a game in person. Granted, going places lately in person has been a stretch, but if the Buffalo Sabres were not regularly on television, how much interest would be evinced for a team that finished only this far — he holds his thumb and forefinger about one inch apart — from 30th place in the standings?
I have gotten very comfortable with takeout food from places where, in the past, I could eat, drink, meet friends, chat with the service staff and generally loiter until sated. Name the restaurant, and I can phone it in, then pick it up and go home to a great meal in an environment where I am comfortable, and without concern about attire, posture or general manners.
The sudden need for manners will be noted in the next few weeks. After months of behaving the way we do at home, because we are home, watch for inappropriate behavior in churches, stores and sporting events. Family pets will need the comforts of psychiatry, soon to be left alone more than in the past. I suspect some of us will need remedial driving lessons.
No, we will never be back to normal. We have learned too much — what we missed, what we learned to do without — and anyway, the definition of “normal” is malleable and transitory, always a moving target, and somewhere along the line we’ll go back to mourning those we’ve lost.
This planet had an influenza pandemic, circa 1918, which killed millions, and we are these days hard-pressed to see any evidence of it. No monuments to the dead, next to nothing about it in the arts of the era, a government that silently stood by and let the disease run its course. Will anyone make a film about life with COVID-19, featuring deaths, worry and paper masks?
Somehow I doubt it. We will not want to be reminded as we celebrate. Those of us who have come to enjoy home confinement might look at it differently.