It was a different time. Chances are that things will still be different far into the future. How you lived your life changed and it was not always comfortable. Businesses were shut down, people lost their jobs, the lucky ones worked from home. The government handed out checks to those that had filed taxes and extended assistance programs way past any termination date so that millions of people would not be thrown out on the street. Those that had families to count on, retreated behind closed doors. Handshaking has disappeared. You can only assume people you meet are suspect because this enemy of man is invisible. Masks were mandatory to enter any building so when you left your home, you put on the mask taking it off when you returned.
In New York City, so many bus drivers were becoming afflicted by the virus, the driver compartment was taped off and no fare was collected for over six months. Even with this incentive, the buses and subways were nearly empty during the early months of the pandemic until some business were allowed to reopen. Essential workers were heroes: the health care worker handling the long hours, the grocery workers stocking shelves or handling checkout, underpaid delivery workers, and those dealing with the public in person like the police and emergency workers.
For years prior to 2020, there was a TV series about zombies called the Walking Dead. It was as if the premises for that program had come true only you could not shoot other people. This was a time of the Trump presidency and a huge political divide had arisen within the country. I suppose some feelings were akin to what was felt during the American Civil War of the 1860’s except back then even General and soon-to-be President Ulysses S. Grant allowed the defeated Confederate Army soldiers to keep their horses and arms. There was respect for the other side. The deaths in the United States from the pandemic in one year is approaching the death toll of that great conflict which took four years to amass and they were shooting bullets at each other.
The lack of social mingling had a deleterious effect on social norms. Sadly, the pandemic took on a political aspect that colored public discussion of what was right or wrong public policy and blame was cast. Even the vaccines that were a shining example of what went right in the world when confronted with this worldwide pandemic gathered doubters. Technology of the Internet and television were what saved the masses from the loneliness of isolation during shutdown after shutdown. The great rock band of the sixties, the Rolling Stones, came out with a song, Living in a Ghost Town, that spoke about this emptiness.
Aspects of living that had fallen in abeyance such as family meals became daily highlights and many people spoke of the opportunities for drawing closer together. Opposite effects were seen when jails were emptied out and the inevitable rise in shooting and deaths occurred as scores were settled. Tempers, impatience, and rioting sadly were evident in peaceful protests as a new social aspect arose that equated racial injustice with the pandemic. Strangely, rioting was a way of live in some major cities such as Seattle and Portland.
Sporting events were either delayed or played with the athletes living in a bubble that included only those participants in the arenas with spectators replaced by placards of fans in the empty seats. Online games such as chess thrived during the pandemic. Life was different with many common events such as birthdays, church attendance, and parades being attendance restricted to prevent occurrences know as super-spreaders where one person infects many. This was rightly so as why should a joyful event be held when one asymptomatic carrier could unknowingly deliver the virus that could possibly kill the honoree and others? One early observation was younger people had a lower death rate than older people creating the potential for a real generational divide. Once a test for the antibodies was developed, travel was restricted to people who tested negative for the virus. Around Thanksgiving of 2020, block-long lines appeared outside store fronts of hospital outreach units. This helped dampen the bump in deaths expected from the holidays. Lines of cars also, appeared in announced locations for the test as well as outside grocery stores to pick up orders.
Jobs disappeared and workers needed to transition to different jobs such as call center workers with retraining or virus contact tracers. Recent graduates were being encouraged to continue their education through advanced degrees/certificates. Challenges to finding a job remain and it is to this group that the author of this blog recommends a program called “Six Step to a Paycheck” in my book: Finding a Job in Tough Times. Visit www.findingajob.net for more information about this reflective workbook.
Since these observations were written at the beginning of the 2nd year of the Great Pandemic, much data remains to be collected, analyzed, and considered. Your good cheer and outlook are your essential tools to surviving this pandemic.