It’s been two and half months of staying in my house and only venturing forth for occasional grocery pick ups, the odd drive-thru splurge and my yearly buying trip for flowers for the front yard, all while masked up like I’m an extra on M*A*S*H.
At this point, the idea of taking my dog Maggie to her groomer on Thursday is about as adventuresome to me as departing for a two-week trip to Fiji. The glimmer of hope of getting my hair cut after the 19th of the month is like getting an appointment at a day spa in France right now. Even the thought of having just a few friends over for drinks on the patio 6 feet apart feels like organizing a girls’ trip to Vegas.
The ordinary has become extraordinary.
February seems like years ago. For me, it was a month full of flights to large cities for convention coverage, of emceeing special events for HPJ, and staying in hotels and eating out like other travelers. I was gone all four weeks on the road for one reason or another. And at the end of that stretch, while I loved the adventure of travel, I swore I’d never quite schedule myself so much again because it was just so exhausting.
Now? I wistfully look at my suitcase and my backpack, and I wonder if they’ll get used on an adventure anytime soon. Any adventure, really.
I’m more than ready to get back to any sense of normalcy. Yes, even if it means wearing a mask.
Of course, any adventure of the future is going to be modified. I remember when we were in Vietnam with my KARL X class and we saw everyone in large cities wearing cloth masks. Back then it was a measure against air pollution. Now, well, those cloth masks can be a measure against more than just pollution. I’ve already started getting emails from retailers adding masks to their fashion offerings. I can accessorize my outfit to reflect my personality, from rooting for my favorite sports team to a favorite television character’s catch phrase. Both stylish and practical, and at a price point everyone can afford.
I remember when we first started seeing hand sanitizer stations at our livestock shows and zoos, a measure to protect visitors from any pathogens that could be transferred by being around animals and their “by-products.” The more seasoned crowd scoffed at the idea as something only helicopter mommies would think up, but eventually they came to appreciate the sensibility. Now we even have hand-washing stations at our fairs that are sponsored by farm groups as a way to teach children to keep germs at bay. In the future, I expect that any group gathering is going to feature more sanitation stations. And that can also help keep not only the novel coronavirus at bay, but also the spread of other pathogens like E. coli and his buddies.
The days of crowding large numbers of travelers, diners, moviegoers, festival attendees and sports spectators into facilities without a second thought are over. Much like Sept. 11 changed our air travel security protocols, and the Oklahoma City bombing changed our security measures around federal buildings, expect COVID-19 to change the way we work and play. I got on a plane after Sept. 11, but it was with extra caution and thought than before. I still went to Washington, D.C. to meet with elected officials, but it was with a few extra steps at the security screening checkpoint.
When the orders are lifted, whether it is in phases or all at once, my adventures are going to likely be modified from before. I still plan on going to meetings, but I’ll likely wear a mask and carry hand sanitizer just because I wouldn’t want to be a vector. I still plan on going to K-State football games at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. I’ll just make sure my mask is purple and white. I’ll still be respectful in my professional greetings, but I have to admit, thinking about shaking hands gives me pause right now. I’ll still stay in hotels, dine in restaurants, and explore cities, but I’ll likely carry hand sanitizer and wipes just to make extra certain I’m not passing something along to the next person.
Of course, I’m also the type of person who takes the shopping cart back to the cart corral in the parking lot so that it doesn’t ding other cars. Make of that what you will.
I can tell you one thing for sure. I will never take adventure for granted again. Even if the adventure is just having dinner with friends at our favorite spot in town.
Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or email@example.com.