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Into the Great Tight Indoors
A rebel without a mask
I was listening to a podcast the other day in which the guest, political commentator David Frum, likened the beginning of COVID-vaccinated life to a frightened, anxious dog whose kennel has been opened, but he’s not quite sure if he should (or is ready to) leave it.
It was a interesting metaphor — one that I suspect would resonate with a lot of people. After all, much of society was cooped up in its socially-distant lifestyle for over a year, told by infectious disease experts and government officials — with good reason — that people should stay clear of one another. Remain six feet apart. No congregating. Wear a mask inside public places. These were the practices that would help protect ourselves and others.
Of course, some of the guidelines and restrictions went overboard, not always lining up with the science. It was clear pretty early on, for example, that it was extremely rare for COVID-19 to be transmitted through surface contact. Yet, throughout the pandemic, hand-washing and hand-sanitizing were presented as vital protection tools, and grocery stores and other businesses still tout how often their employees disinfect their equipment, doors, and countertops.
Then, there was that issue of wearing masks outside, which again, we knew early on didn’t make a whole lot of sense (unless maybe people were close enough to make out with each other).
But that’s a topic for another day. Today, I want to talk about the lives these miracle vaccines (I think it’s fair to call them that) are allowing people to return to after a very long time. The science and statistics have shown that a fully vaccinated individual is extremely unlikely to become infected with COVID-19, and even less likely to pass it on to someone else. Those unlucky vaccinated few who do become infected (Bill Maher being a recent high-profile example) should still consider themselves to be pretty lucky, because the vaccine better prepares their bodies to fight and recover from the virus… to the point that the chances of them having to be hospitalized or dying from it are effectively zero.
In other words, fully vaccinated people should be able to do just about everything they could safely do prior to the pandemic (as the CDC has confirmed in its latest recommendations). That revelation should come with an overwhelming sense of liberation. But as Frum suggests, the more accurate word for a lot of people might be tepidity.
I admit I’ve felt it. Two weeks after my second shot, I ate dinner with my wife inside a restaurant for the first time since February or March of 2020. To be clear, I’ve eaten plenty of restaurant food throughout the pandemic, whether it be take-out, carry-out, or from a restaurant table on an outside patio. But that night was my first time back inside a restaurant, and though we had fun, it did feel a bit awkward and uneasy. Coughs from around the dining room would catch my attention, and I felt inclined to still give others plenty of space (as they did me) in the hallway outside the restroom.
Afterwards, my wife and I went to a movie theater that had just reopened. The couple that initially sat directly behind us quickly decided the proximity was too close for their comfort, so they got up and moved a couple rows back. Part of me felt like saying, “It’s okay, we’re vaccinated,” but another part of me totally understood where they were coming from, and was even a bit… relieved.
I think it may take a little while before a lot of society becomes comfortable with itself again. There are things that would make it easier (like more people getting vaccinated to help stomp this virus into nothingness), but you can’t control what others do; you can only control what you do. And to that broader point, Frum described how he and his wife are planning to get past their own tepidity. They’ve booked a multi-state train trip to New York City where they’ll be dining out with friends every night and catching Broadway shows. They’ll of course be among lots and lots of people along the way.
Sort of a trial by fire approach, in which the fire is normalcy.
I think it makes sense, and since that first dine-in experience a few weeks ago, my wife and I (along with friends) have eaten in restaurants several more times; it feels more ordinary with each sitting.
Of course, there are still some COVID-19 business restrictions (like mask-wearing) in place, depending on where you live and where you go. Those restrictions should be respected by customers, including those who are fully vaccinated. In other situations, individuals who choose to keep wearing a mask — even after they’re vaccinated — should also be respected. I was as pro-mask as anyone; it was (and to an extent still is) an important mitigation tool. If vaccinated people aren’t quite ready to take theirs’ off (for whatever reason), that’s fine with me; they’re not hurting anyone.
But the ordinary life is largely within reach, and I’m grabbing for it. My family has several trips (including air-travel) planned, and is looking forward to going to concerts again (we’ve had tickets for one in particular since 2019).
I saw this marquee photo online the other day, and I loved the message:
Honestly, going to concerts should be the biggest psychological barrier breaker of them all. It’s a tight environment where everyone’s singing and there isn’t a whole lot of breathing room. And on a personal note, it’s also an atmosphere in which drunk strangers often try to hug me. (Seriously, this happens a fair amount, and I’ve never understood why. I’m an inexplicable magnet for such folks.)
In summary, normalcy is here. In my view, the vaccinated in particular should embrace and enjoy it… even if it feels weird at first.
Have you experienced post-vaccination hesitancy, or are you already living your best life? Let me know in an email or in the comment section below.
Charles Grodin (1935-2021)
Actor Charles Grodin passed away last week, and though I didn’t know a lot about him as an individual, I do know that he made me laugh an awful lot over the years… both on the big screen and in his comically awkward appearances on late-night talks shows.
I first became a fan of Grodin when I was a kid. I loved the 1976 remake of King Kong, in which he played wealthy oil company executive, Fred Wilson. Grodin stole just about every scene he was in, including this one:
Grodin was perfect for the part, combining his trademark dry humor with a snide, antagonistic greediness that compelled theater audiences to cheer when Wilson got stepped on near the end of the film.
Something interesting about that scene: in the original cut, Kong missed and Wilson survived, only losing his hat to the bottom of the giant gorilla’s foot. Preview audiences, however, booed the bait and switch. They wanted to see Wilson get his due, so the film’s creators did some creative editing to give the people exactly what they wanted.
Another Grodin film I very much like is one that not all that many people have seen: Clifford, co-starring Martin Short. Its fairly bizarre slapstick premise of Short portraying a conniving, self-absorbed 10-year-old boy makes for some surprisingly good comedy. Grodin plays the boy’s uncle, and his building frustration with his nephew throughout the film is the highlight:
“You touch the dinosaur and I’m going to kill you.” 😂
Thanks for the laughs, Mr. Grodin. RIP.
Obligatory Dog Shot
The circle of life.
Non-Obligatory Shot Proving You Were an Awkward Child of the 80s
By the way, that orange shag carpet in my parents’ basement was a memorable part of my youth.
So… writing about King Kong above sort of dictated this week’s featured vinyl. As I mentioned a while back, I sometimes pick up albums just for the cover, and this right here is a prime example.
John Barry’s score for the film was pretty good, with the love theme probably being the most memorable track, but this purchase from a used record store on Bainbridge Island in Washington, while on vacation in Seattle, was a purely aesthetic choice (with a dash of nostalgia mixed in).
Gotta love the artwork on this.
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