Nobody Asked Me But: Pivotal turning point in human evolution upon us
It’s been more than a year and a bit since we fell under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic that swept across the globe. Recently, with the number of infections slowly decreasing as the rate of vaccination has steadily risen, we feel ourselves approaching a new horizon. As the days slip by, we find our faces pressed up against the window to the future. We are on the threshold of a new normal.
One of the changes we are sure to notice involves household cleanliness. All this social distancing and staying within our bubbles during the pandemic has given us so much more time to not do all the things that need doing around the house. Why vacuum the living room rug now when it will just be in the same state of dustiness tomorrow? Who’s going to see it anyway? And, by the way, where is that vacuum cleaner hiding? Could it be crouching deep in the hall closet corner behind that formidable snarl of spider webs and dust balls?
You can bet that I, for one, will not be putting on a mask anytime soon after those in charge of public health declare that the coast is clear. In fact, I’m predicting there will be a steep decline in sales of masks of all kinds. By these, we can include surgical masks, industrial masks and even Halloween masks like the one worn by Spiderman. May the Lord have mercy on the poor slob who forgets that the plague has been declared as over and mistakenly wanders into a bank with his designer mask pulled over his face. There will be no more face masks dangling from the rear-view mirrors of our cars and trucks; that honourable position will be returned to the much more traditional foam dice, dream catchers and air fresheners.
Have I mentioned hand-washing? When the pandemic is declared over, I may take a six-month moratorium from singing “Happy Birthday” twice to my hands as I wash them. In fact, I may never wash them again just so as to give the surface layer of skin on them a chance to regenerate. And, no thanks, I don’t think I’m going to want me or anybody else to shoot a couple of squirts of hand sanitizer into my waiting, cupped palms to make sure that all of those villainous bacteria are exterminated while simultaneously assuring that any moisture left in my skin will be driven off into the ether so that my hands are left as dry as a Sahara sand dune.
How do you suppose the new normal will affect our shopping rituals? Are we still going to be wiping down and sanitizing our shopping carts and baskets before and after every use? Will we still line up at the front doors of our supermarkets and wait until enough shoppers have left the premises before we are given permission by a disembodied mechanical voice to enter? Will we navigate our carts up and down the aisles while attempting to steer six feet clear of any and all who might be coming dangerously close to our air space?
Or are we going to backtrack to the same old same old that were our habits before the word “COVID” ever entered our consciousness? Will we stop our carts in mid-aisle, embrace other shoppers whom we haven’t seen since who knows when, and catch up on all the intricate details of our lives until we are informed by a store employee that closing time is fast approaching? Will we reach our outstretched arms over the shoulders of other unsuspecting store patrons in order to snatch that last remaining carton of organic oat milk on sale this week? And instead of lining up in an orderly fashion so that we can efficiently be directed to the next available till, will we once again play Lotto Checkout with each other to try to guess which till will move the fastest so that we will have to spend the least amount of time possible waiting for our groceries to be rung through?
Leisure, play and holiday time have all been tremendously hampered during the long social distancing period our society has had to endure. Yoga classes, swing dance lessons, fitness centres and Gregorian chanting groups have fallen by the wayside. Live musical concerts and theatre performances seem as distant in the past as once did gladiator battles and jousting contests. As for road trips and vacation excursions, a solo walk around the block has seemed about as adventuresome lately as a climb to the summit of Everest. Will the new normal see us all willingly and even aggressively piling into a moshpit of close encounters?
Then, there’s the matter of the workplace versus working from home. Although many of us have not had a choice during the days of COVID and have had to continue showing up in factories, offices and job sites on a daily basis, a large proportion of workers have been given the option of carrying on their employment duties from inside the confines of their own homes. As one might well expect, the work ethic of these “home drones” has, shall we say, mellowed during the pandemic interval. Consequently, it has not been too unusual a sight for someone to show up on a Zoom conference meeting dressed in a button-down shirt and tie above the desk top, but wearing nothing but boxer shorts and no socks below. This is, of course, referring to those who haven’t yet figured out how to properly frame their online exposure. Whether the new normal will see the workplace trend continue in this direction is anybody’s guess, but it might be a good time to invest heavily in outrageous underwear.
Nobody asked me, but the event horizon which will hopefully mark the end of the pandemic and the beginning of whatever comes afterwards is quickly approaching. Future historians will most probably cite these next few weeks as a pivotal turning point in the course of human evolution. Much like homo erectus first rising up and walking on two legs, the dawning of the new normal could well bring a leap forward in the intellectual and spiritual development of our species.
Then again, any lessons learned from our recent ordeal may all go for naught and we might just revert to scraping our knuckles along the ground just as we did before this whole thing started. In which case it will mean hand-washing time again.