How often has this happened?
You’re walking down Main street in Alpharetta and run into a friend. You embrace in a hug, even if it’s a bro-hug with the pat on the back, maybe just a hearty handshake. Your friend smiles and asks what you’ve been up to. The two of you spend a few minutes talking about recent adventures, and then you talk about making plans.
Let’s get together soon.
Great, how about we meet Friday afternoon at the Roswell Street pub for a beer, then go to that new restaurant in Milton, eat some dinner, then take in a movie?
Sounds great, see you then.
Familiar? It should be. You’ve probably gone through a similar scenario some thousands of times in your life.
But today, not so much. Today the scene is much different.
You’re walking down the street and spot a friend. The two of you circle each other warily, trying to stay at least six feet apart while avoiding anyone else on the road. There’s no human contact at all, and you have no idea if they are smiling, scowling, or frowning.
There’s no point asking what the two of you have been up to lately. You haven’t been up to anything. Furtive runs to the market once a week to buy essentials. Maybe a quick take-out order or food delivery.
The highlight of the week was pizza delivery. Remember when that was plan D? I don’t feel like doing anything tonight, let’s just order a pizza and watch TV. Now, it’s the best thing you’ve done lately.
Plans? Forget about it. You don’t even know what the future is, how can you plan on it?
Meet at the pub? No.
Go out to dinner? No.
Take in a movie? Hell no.
Being spontaneous. It used to the default behavior. Especially since we retired. The only planned activities were a few card games a week and a Friday night potluck, none of which is happening. Everything else was done on the fly.
Plans? We didn’t have any because we didn’t need any. We took every day as it came and decided where to go, what to eat, and what to do in the evening. Spontaneity. Can’t do that anymore.
The most mundane task requires careful planning. Got a mask? Check. Got a spare mask? Check. Hand sanitizer and wipes? Check. Get out of the car. Put on your mask. Plan a route to the door that doesn’t cross paths with anyone. Go in this door, not that door. Take a cart that has been pushed toward you by a masked person sanitizing the handle. Walk down aisles only in a particular direction, maintaining a six-foot distance from anyone else.
And that’s just walking into a market. If I had written that a year ago, you would assume it was the opening of a new sci-fi or dystopian novel.
We used to enjoy the mundane. Pushing our cart through the store randomly dropping in whatever caught our eye. Often, we didn’t even buy anything. We just wandered through the store after lunch hand in hand — more of a walk than a chore.
Now, everything is a chore. It’s not fun. Simply walking around a store requires effort. The masked and the unmasked warily eyeing each other. No one smiles, and if they did, you wouldn’t know it for the most part.
A random encounter with a neighbor? Quick and furtive. Muffled and masked. Nothing to talk about anyway. You haven’t done anything, and you have no plans.
A spontaneous trip? Hey, there’s a cheap cruise out of Miami. Let’s hop on a flight and spend a week in the Caribbean.
Not in our wildest dreams.
People keep saying we’re in this together. But we’re not. Nobody is together. Ever.
People keep saying we’ll get through this. I used to say it. But I haven’t said it lately. I’m not so sure anymore.How much of this will be normal?
How much of what was normal will never be again?
But, there is hope. We, humans, are nothing if not resilient. We’ve been through worse. Far worse. We assimilate some things and forget other things. And I hope it is the same with this. Some of it will become part of our society. Other parts will fade in our memories.
Hey, remember that time? Oh, yeah, I forgot about that.
I hope so. I could stand to forget some of this. And I’m not sure how much of it I want to assimilate. I can’t think of a single element of this crisis I would want to see become part of our society in the future.
Especially, the careful planning. The finite details that go into the most mundane of chores. Planning ingress and egress of a market like it’s a covert assault on an enemy encampment.
And the lack of spontaneity. I really miss that. Hooking up with friends on the fly and making some last-minute plans to do something. Anything. I hope that doesn’t become a thing of the past. People tell me that this is foolish. Of course, we will get back there someday soon.
But here’s a thought. Remember when you were a kid, and everything was spontaneous? You left your house in the morning with no destination in mind. You met up with friends on the corner and took off to points unknown, playing all day and returning home in time for dinner?
Well, kids today don’t know anything about that. A handful of perverts took care of that bit of fun. At some point, there became this thing called playdates. If two or more kids want to spend the day playing, their parents have to make plans to get them together, and at least one of them has to monitor their every move. That’s now considered normal — the only rational way to behave.
So, if childhood spontaneity is an accepted thing of the past, why not adult spontaneity?
What makes us think that will ever be a thing again? Maybe it becomes something relegated to a small group of underground rebels; The Unmasked. They get together in modern-day speakeasies and randomly plan things to do. The rest of us will spot them in the market, going up the down aisle. Will we watch them with envy, fear, or loathing?
I hope that remains the subject of dystopian fiction and not the fabric of our lives.
Because I miss spontaneity.