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Yesterday was the 3rd anniversary of the press conference that announced the lockdown protocols. Maybe you’ve seen the video of Fauci, et al., describing their recommendations with strange laughter and dissonant enthusiasm. Two weeks. Spread, stopped.
My memories of the early lockdowns are not bad. Strange, unnerving — but not bad, not yet. Daughter was home from college, a refugee, and it was just grand to have her back. We had an exchange student from Barcelona, who was unflappable. I was an essential worker, so I was able to move around downtown, my papers tucked in my pocket in case I was stopped. The grocery store was the only place besides the office I visited, and it was surreal — all that fresh produce, the distant mood music, the empty expanses where flour and pasta were once stocked. We made bread and homemade spaghetti and played games. When you walked the dog you crossed the street if someone was coming towards you. When you woke you checked for symptoms that might have announced themselves overnight.
The news was bad, of course. Not enough ventilators. Hospitals crushed, although nurses had time to do TikTok dances. The news was full of red arrows. Emergency morgues and mass graves dug, just in case. But at the end of two weeks, you felt as though this wasn’t the plague we’d all feared. Bad, yes. But the world was still turning. The lights and gas didn’t fail because the utility workers were dying. The stores didn’t close because the clerks were huddled home, sick. Eric Idle was not coming down the street with the cart shouting BRING OUT YOUR DEAD. This wasn’t the movie “Contagion,” with the Armory in downtown Minneapolis heaped with the dying and the dead.
Maybe we could open up and bring back the world when the fortnight concluded?
No, we could not. I remember texting with a friend in early April about how I was absolutely done with this, with wearing a mask everywhere, with living in this new paranoid paradigm. My friend texted back that she was most certainly not done with it. I was surprised. I thought people would want to free-face as soon as possible, but it turned out that the masks, and the rules, were comforting to many. They were an unexpected source of clarity and virtue, like planting a Victory Garden — except that the people who didn’t plant carrots were some variety of Nazi, or a Floridian.
When the two-week lockdown was replaced with another, something was sundered. Clean break, in retrospect, but we didn’t know it at the time.
Today on the drive home from work I passed two cars with lone occupants wearing masks. Three years on.
If only we’d known, you think, but then you remember: we did.Published in