My new least-favorite phrase is “the new normal.” I don’t want a new normal. I want my old normal back, please.

Alas, that is almost certainly not to be. The post-COVID world will likely be quite different from the one we knew just eight short months ago — and not, for the most part, in good ways. In that sense, COVID-19 will probably end up being like 9/11, only more so.

If you’re over 40, you might remember going all the way back to the gate to meet friends and family at the airport. You didn’t need a ticket or anything.

Now everyone has to have a valid ticket and ID to get through security, where they are somewhat likely to be patted down or have their bags searched, especially if they’re little old ladies.

Such is our new normal. I doubt we’ll ever go back to the way it used to be. Perhaps that’s a good thing, on one level, but I still miss those days.

COVID-19 is the same kind of watershed event, except it will bring even greater changes — and I fear those changes will be even more objectionable.

It’s probably going to be a long time, for instance — a couple of years, at least — before we’re back to gathering regularly in closed spaces for things like concerts, sporting events and movies. Some of the places where we used to do those things may disappear for good.

I wonder, too, about simple human interactions. Are handshakes a thing of the past? How about hugs? I’m not much of a hugger, myself, but I (mostly) appreciate people who are, as long as they don’t overdo it.

In any case, I’d hate to see hugging among relative strangers go away completely. It’s one of the ways we reinforce our shared humanity.

As a teacher, I also worry about things like in-class work groups. After using those extensively for more than 30 years, I had to adjust following our abrupt pivot to “digital learning” last Spring. Online groups, though better than nothing, simply aren’t as effective.

Will we ever again live in a world where kids feel safe sitting two or three feet from each other?

And how about regular, face-to-face conversations with co-workers? I’ve been back on campus since August, teaching in a severely modified format, yet I hardly ever see any of my colleagues. Most days, the place feels deserted—and that includes students.

It’s worse for some of my friends in the corporate world, many of whom haven’t been to the office since March. You can do a lot of things in a Zoom meeting (just ask Jeffrey Toobin), but establishing close, personal relationships isn’t one of them.

In the final analysis, I wonder if what we’ve gained from all the lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and fear-mongering (in the public interest, of course) will be worth what we’ve lost.

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Rob Jenkins is a college professor. The views expressed here are his own. You can email Rob at rob.jenkins@outlook.com.

(1) comment

Stephen Lykins

"Post-COVID, will what we gained be worth what we lost"? Short answer - NO!

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