COVID International Airport
And our flight is delayed
I’m not going to link to the source, because it’s one person’s personal blog. But I read this writing about the mask mandate, and it made me think. Here’s the quote, and I’ll follow with some thoughts.
“Not everyone has had as difficult a time with masks as I have. But in two years of having to wear them, I never acclimated. I never accepted them as the new normal. I didn’t fight through the barrier and carry on as my usual self, only with a piece of cloth over my face. They made me too uncomfortable, too self-conscious. I found them annoying, awkward, awful. So I just kind of shut down. For two years, I have minimized my engagement with others. For two years, I waited it out.
I feel a little like a rehabilitated animal perched at the edge of my release cage. The keepers have opened the door and now it’s up to me to venture back out into the wild. I’ve been envisioning what it will be like for a long time. There are some restaurants around me which, despite the restrictions, get quite a crowd. For the past three months I have walked by them, peering in wistfully, imagining how lovely it will be to just go in, sit at the bar, order a slice of pizza, maybe a cider. Strike up a conversation with a stranger. Connect and feel human again.”
Her mask issues aren’t really the point. The point is that she saw the pandemic as temporary. And she wasn’t going to adjust or acclimatize for a temporary thing.
Around 3-4 months into the pandemic, it was clear to me and everyone I knew who worked in public health and global health that we had a couple of years of pandemic ahead of us. Somehow that message never made it to the general public. I was getting paid (remote) speaking gigs at that time, mostly for professional associations. And every time I talked about the length of the timeline ahead, people were shocked. I don’t think they ever believed me. It got to the point where any time I talked to a colleague about anything, I’d ask them “It’s going to be at least two years to anything like normal, right?”
Me being right is also not the point.
The point is that we didn’t make long-term adaptations to life with COVID. We made short-term adjustments. We closed schools instead of improving their ventilation systems. We framed masks as a temporary inconvenience, not a new way of life.
I don’t know if it was a messaging failure or a very bad choice, but political leadership and public health communicators built this problem. It’s hard to admit when things are really, really bad. But pretending they’re not as bad as they are can drive you a little crazy. It can drive a society crazy.
If you’re in an airport, and you find out your flight has been canceled and the next one isn’t until tomorrow, it’s rough. But you reschedule your obligations and you go get dinner and a cinnamon bun and maybe a hotel room. It’s very inconvenient. If you’re in an airport and they keep delaying your flight for 30 minutes for 24 hours, it’s complete and utter misery.
We are all stuck in the COVID International airport now. Some of us have rooms at the airport Hilton1, some of us had to get jobs at the coffee stand to pay our bills, and some of us are on the runway dodging planes and pretending they’re home already.
We can’t all afford the airport Hilton and this is a problem. A major problem, and there will be future writing about it.