I look out my living room window at grey skies, a little slice of the day. I think I can feel Spring coming in, although we’re supposed to get a trace of snow tomorrow.
Three years ago, COVID hadn’t quite started, although I think we were hearing rumors from Europe. Many weren’t concerned because we thought American exceptionalism protected us from contagion. Not that big a deal anyhow, no worse than the flu (as if the flu were a trivial infection). That slice of sun from my window was my world under COVID, emblematic of my isolation, which I spent baking and waiting for the news to change.
That spring semester changed the way I looked at things. People who disagreed with the government’s masking mandate and, later, vaccination push, took a malevolent cast, while those who complied I saw as more trustworthy. I became more of an introvert, having lost the habit of congregating with co-workers. Talking to people over Zoom became natural. The office became the loveseat with its view of the world.
After summer came fall, and the school year was what we called ‘hybrid’ — classroom plus synchronous distance for people who couldn’t come in because of COVID or other malady. That structure was very convenient for students, and very inconvenient for faculty who were basically teaching two classes. We sprayed disinfectant on student desks and tables after each class and kept masked distance during office hours.
COVID has now become, for people, like the flu — a disease that we get vaccines for, which mutates past the reach of the vaccine occasionally, and gives most unlucky people a respiratory illness which knocks them out, but from which they will recover. There are enough cases of debilitation and death, like with the flu, that many people will always take it seriously, as they do the flu. But we won’t forget the year when the contagion changed our lives, scared us, and perhaps scarred us.