Remember those cartoons depicting a character holding a sign saying “The End Is Near”? Sometimes the character had long unkempt hair, a full beard, and a long billowing robe, like a soothsayer, or a hermit. Sometimes the sign was held by a character who was a regular in the cartoon strip, like Snoopy in the “Peanuts” strip by Charles Schultz. Or one of the cavemen in Johnny Hart’s “B.C.” comic strip. I remember that it seemed to be a common meme when we were kids. Long, long before the term “meme” was part of our everyday parlance..
Anyway, I need a sign like that. Except mine will say… “Please, please, let the end be near.”
Of course I’m not talking about the end of life itself. But about the end of life as we have come to know it this past year and a bit. The end of pandemic life. Of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. And closed borders. The end of lonely grandparents who can’t hug their grandchildren, and elderly parents who have remained unvisited by their daughters for over a year and a half. The end of curbside pick-up only and empty restaurant patios. And the end of zoom get-togethers. Gad, I am so done with Zoom.
I read an article recently in The Guardian that talked about the unexpected effects of working from home, of working alone, meeting colleagues and clients only on a screen. “The Empty Office: What We Lose When We Work From Home” looked at, among other things, how sharing a work space has subtle but important effects on how well we work. I applaud the researchers who are trying to prove what most of us who have worked as a team already knew, that being with people in real life is way better than communicating through a grid of talking heads on a screen. And that working as a team IRL gets better results than working together on screen.
The informal communication that happens in a shared workspace is invaluable, even in so-called “formal” meetings. The unscheduled interruptions, shared side-long looks, body language, the ability to have more than one conversation at a time, being able to flap your hands in excitement to interrupt and agree with someone or share a thought. That was always my specialty. When I had an idea, I’d flap my hand and say, “Oh, oh, oh, I’ve got it.”
That’s why, to me, book club meetings on Zoom, while better than no book club at all, are boring. And unsatisfying. My teacher friends say it’s hard to get kids talking in Zoom classes. I know how they feel. The kids, I mean. Our last Zoom book club meeting had some very long pauses that would never have occurred before. People didn’t seem to have much to say except desultory chat. The book discussion kind of went no where. I had several things I’d wanted to say that I didn’t. They went right out of my head. The energy of a discussion always gets me thinking, but this one had me forgetting I ever had anything to say.
I recall so clearly the benefits of working with a bunch of other teachers in the same prep room. Even while we sat at our own computers, we could scoot our chairs together and quickly toss ideas around. I might overhear two colleagues talking about an activity that would help me with my own issues. We could easily share resources, help each other solve problems. Or just bond as a group over shared lunches and laughter. I can’t imagine working alone at home all semester, only seeing my colleagues and students on a screen. Meetings and classes where only one person can speak at a time? What’s with that? Arg. How “bottled up” that must feel. Because that’s how I feel at my Zoom book club discussions… bottled up. Stifled, almost.
But hopefully no more. The good news is, with Ontario going into stage one of reopening on Friday, my book club meeting on Saturday will finally be in person. Outside, mind you. And suitably distanced. But in person. Finally.
So does that mean that the end of the pandemic is in sight? That this time reopening is the beginning of the end. Instead of, like last year at this time, just the end of the beginning? Let’s hope so.
In other good news, Ontario is ramping up the vaccine roll-out. Thank goodness.
Not that I’m complaining about how it’s gone to date. Despite all the changes in policy and the slowness in getting vaccines initially, apparently Canada is number one in the G20 nations with getting first shots into people’s arms. I think that’s a statistic that would surprise most Canadians, me included when I heard it. And last week Ontario made a move to get second shots to Ontarians faster than initially planned, starting with citizens over 80 who could rebook their second shot earlier than originally scheduled.
This week, starting on Monday, people over 70 could rebook their second shot if they wanted. I spent hours on the computer on Monday morning booking Hubby a new date for his second shot. The process was time-consuming and frustrating. I waited on-line in a queue for an hour, then was kicked off the site because it closed down. In all I spent almost five hours on, or hovering near, my computer that morning. Watching a tiny icon cross the screen, telling me when my turn to log onto the provincial booking site would come. I was in line behind thousands of other people doing the same. Group emails from my book club flew back and forth all morning, who had booked when and where. I seemed to be the only one who had not been successful. I kept trying.
After the second unsuccessful try, I made a cup of tea and had a little cry. Pandemic fatigue. All of a sudden I was just so tired of everything, and cross at everyone and no one in particular. Hubby was off golfing, which frankly didn’t help my mood. But don’t tell him that. Besides, it was better that I was doing this by myself. He’d only have been fuming and pacing which wouldn’t help. I called my Mum and ranted a bit to her. She agreed that it was best if Hubby was not around when all this was happening. While I talked to Mum, I weeded the flower bed. Again. That darned bed is getting more care from me this year than ever before. Ha.
Then I went back indoors and tried again. My third try was successful, and after another hour of waiting to log on, I booked Hubby an appointment several weeks earlier than his original booking.
That evening, after supper, a friend called and I found out that I could book myself too. The rules about who was eligible had changed. I had not planned to be able to book myself for at least another week. That was a revelation. My appointment for my second shot, which wasn’t until August, had been our biggest impediment to getting down east before the summer ended. I rushed to the computer and was able to get on the provincial booking site with no delays at all.
I guess everyone who’d wanted to book an appointment that morning had been doing it at the same time. And funnily enough as the process, and the day, wore on more vaccine sites came online, and more appointment blocks were created. I now have an appointment for my second shot next week. I’m elated.
But as stressful as I found that Monday morning endeavour, I am not complaining. At least not anymore. I look at the fact that it was Monday morning, the first day of the “new rules.” And the fact that the site updated and changed its information throughout the day, that it responded to the changing situation, cancelled old appointments automatically as new ones were made, and sent millions of messages and emails confirming all these arrangements to tons of Ontarians. The glitches were ironed out pretty darned quickly. Even as I cursed and fumed all morning, I knew this.
Soon both Hubby and I will be fully vaccinated. And so will many, many more Canadians. And maybe, just maybe, we might make it down east this summer.
I’ll take those two small pieces of good news as emblematic that this is the beginning of the end of Covid life as we have come to know it this past year. No more Zoom book club meetings. And by the end of next week I will be fully vaccinated. Hubby will follow the week after.
I’m going to focus on the idea that although we will have weeks and weeks yet of cautious reopening, we will probably be in New Brunswick for Mum’s birthday in late August. Depending on if our province can maintain the speed of the vaccine roll-out, the kids and my teacher friends will probably be back to in-person learning and teaching by the fall. That will be wonderful for them all. No more stifled Zoom classes. Heaven.
All of this won’t mean the end of the pandemic. We will still be wearing masks at times. We will still be social distancing in public places. Travel will still be limited. People will still get sick. Businesses may still fail. The fallout of the past year and a half will be far reaching and last for a long time.
There will be glitches. I think we have to expect glitches along the way. But I also think as we get more good news, we’ll be better able to handle the glitches as they present themselves.
And as we move forward I think we all need to complain a little less. I’m tired of hearing all the complaints, my own included, of how governments and social agencies at various levels have coped with the pandemic. The seemingly ever-changing rules and regulations, the poorly communicated guidelines, the bad decisions. The responsibility of running things during a pandemic has been massive, and not everyone has been up to the job.
Saying this makes me think of a woman whose name I didn’t even know in 2019. She heads up her province’s response to Covid. We see her and all the other provincial spokespeople on the CBC national daily news broadcast which we watch to follow Covid news here and in New Brunswick. Over the course of this very long year and a half, that poor woman has visibly aged right in front of us. From everything I hear about her, I think she has done a good job. But gosh almighty, she looks so tired. Both Hubby and I have remarked upon this. This is what too long under the glare of public opinion, shouldering huge responsibility can do to a person. Just looking at her makes me feel that I should complain a little less. I’ll bet she is hoping that this is the beginning of the end too.
Now back to Monday. When Hubby came home from golf that afternoon, I was in the basement pedalling my exercise bike. After I’d booked his second vaccine appointment and printed off his confirmations, I decamped to the basement with my audio book to pedal away some of my frustrations. After all, there’s only so much weeding a girl can handle as stress reduction. When he came downstairs to say he was home, I made him sit and listen to every single, tiny detail of my very long morning. I’m pleased to say that he was suitably grateful.
Now how about you, my friends? Are you hoping this is the beginning of the end of the pandemic? Any good news to share with us?