When the government first subjected us to forced lockdowns, it was jarring and will still most likely be viewed as one of the greatest institutional disasters of our country’s history. However, as we adjusted to our quarantine lifestyles, we adapted and found habits that not only helped us through this period, but also should have been commonplace already.
Most of the following changes are so small but have disproportionately positive impacts on our personal health and happiness. We should all hope they continue long after this mess is behind us for good.
It may seem curmudgeonly to say it is about time people respect others’ space, but I am going to say it.
I know nobody likes to be screamed at by the paranoid woman wearing two masks in the grocery story when you get within the bounds of her measuring tape but we should realize that is the new version of being sued for running your shopping cart over someone’s foot.
Not being able to embrace our loved ones and go to crowded events is terrible but this will eventually end. What should stay, on the other hand, is the forced removal of the compulsion to crowd one another. I happen to love the physically distanced lines, they make me feel more at ease rather than when someone is so close I can practically feel their breath.
Imagine the future of grocery stores. We could have widespread use of the Amazon Go model, which is already rapidly expanding throughout the world. Shoppers can wait in line, figure out what they want to buy while they are waiting six feet apart from one another, go in, grab it, and leave. With forever distancing, life has the potential in many circumstances to become logistically smoother.
In situations like stores and restaurants, it is nice to have more than a little elbow room. When you are in line, whether you are six feet apart or six inches apart does not change your place in line, nor does it impact how fast you will reach the front. Similarly, when dining out, it is more relaxing to have tables slightly further away from each other. If this practice stays, restaurants will actually be much quieter and reduced to a more unagitated hum (unless it is intended to be otherwise) because diners will not feel compelled to talk over their neighbors.
Finally, hand hygiene is commonplace and people think twice about coughing or sneezing without properly covering their mouths. When was the last time you heard someone scoff at using Purell? I used to hear story after story of people making a conscious choice to not wash their hands after leaving the restroom. Most also never considered that public transportation seats were not regularly cleaned (let alone disinfected).
Our work culture had a few problems, as well. Most notably, not calling out sick for fear of imperceptions of an employee’s seriousness. True, when others make a habit of calling out on Mondays and Fridays, it may raise flags for their manager and engender skepticism towards other employees but people should call out sick when they are sick.
Not only is it important for individual productivity for someone not feeling their best to stay home, it is also critical to prevent others from getting sick and creating a snowball effect. Employers, whether worried about legal risks or not, are finally starting to understand this approach.
America is a nation of innovators. We love finding creative and easy solutions to our problems. Since the pandemic hit, the best brains started working on ways to get us back to normal and keep things that way long into the future. Look, for example, at the creation of area-cleaning robots. Even JetBlue last week announced it is testing a robot that rides down the aisle and sterilizes all the seats after each flight.
We really missed our restaurants. Even though many of our favorite spots offered takeout and it felt good to support local businesses, nothing is quite the same as getting food served as soon as it leaves the stove or comes out of the oven. Many took it upon ourselves to recreate those experiences in our homes.
Although there were a lot of screw ups on the first sourdough attempts, the third or fourth loaves came out really good. Cooking is a lost art among younger generations and it is a skill that takes time, dedication, and practice. It is also extremely satisfying when you create something like a loaf of bread with a few ingredients and your own two hands.
The experience of learning how to cook will stay with people for their whole lives and it finally made us practice patience in a world of instant gratification. It even possibly offered opportunities for everyone to explore their own heritage in a new way. One final plus, think about how much money you save cooking more than going out.
Family and Friendships
What ties all of the above together? Our interactions with our family and our friends. We are so hyper-connected digitally that a good portion of the time we miss out on truly personal interactions. Working from home gave so many the chance to be with their families and we all are more compelled than ever to check in on our friends and more distant relatives.
As the lockdowns eased, we got together with our loved ones and shared a meal together at a restaurant’s makeshift patio or in our own backyards impressing one another with our new found culinary techniques. Even though we all kept in touch, that first time seeing each other after so many weeks felt particularly special.
The pandemic might have been tough, and harder for those that got sick themselves or lost someone close, but it taught us to appreciate the smaller things in life that we often take for granted. Perhaps there is a lesson here for the future in how we view an inconvenience or for when we lose our patience: no matter what we will figure out a way to carry on, but we should never lose sight of what is truly important.