Observations on New Normalization

Maybe call it renormalization? I am not sure. After nearly two years of pandemic restrictions, my observation is most people publicly pretend to care. This is not a criticism on what restrictions, mandates, lockdowns, or requirements do or do not work. I don’t know, and you likely don’t either, in that any argument, study, or data saying one thing works, there is another claiming it does not. I am talking about going through the motions publicly and privately doing what you really want.

Yes, social behavior has changed, explicitly with happenings in the public eye. In private I see people acting like they are done with the constraints. There is lip service, an act where hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are at every door or counter. Those are used, which is good, and afterwards our private lives are lived much like before.

What has changed for me is eating out. Dinning out, generally once a week, is something my wife and I really enjoy. She finds interesting and tasty places to go, and we enjoy the experience. The pandemic alters this activity. We eat out far less frequently, because it is largely inconvenient to dine at a sidewalk table or in a tent, with overburdened staff, and higher bills. While picnicking outside is pleasant when it is warm and sunny, in western Washington sunny and warm is three months of the year.

Now my wife finds interesting meals to make at home, we cook together, and enjoy the experience.

Publicly, when we do go out, we put on our masks to enter a restaurant, get seated at a table, inside or out, then take off our masks. Just like everyone else. The staff remain masked, and while this may make some sense, for guests it is a “mask kabuki” ™.

Privately, with company, in our home, on walks, or anywhere it is not required we act much like before. No masks, we hug, we sit inside to talk and eat and drink, and we gather. So far, no evil super-spreader event, nor any outbreak. I will admit it may be because our interaction has collapsed to a handful of friends and family groups. We generally see the same people and have been cautious. We also have been to a few large private gatherings with no issue.

On walks, I no longer see people crossing the street before passing the other. Now we pass on the same sidewalk and politely share greetings.

Grocery shopping and air travel are the only places I consistently see people wearing masks. And, nearly without exception, everyone removes their masks as soon as permitted.

Locally, at the end of last spring, many restrictions and mandates were lifted briefly. People acted with relief. Some wore masks as fitting their needs. Most people smiled and enjoyed company publicly, happily. Then came more restrictions, the public responded while the private actions defied

My observation and impression are our public behavior will soon change. Maybe after the holiday. I don’t mind taking precautions, and I think people are willing to continue with reasonable requirements. I think the public has become weary of the continual kabuki.