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The choreography of caution | Chuck's World

Vaccines' efficacy prompting changes in people's behavior

 

Last updated 6/16/2021 at 12:08pm

We've been putting out little fires for a few weeks, my community of friends, manageable trauma for the post-pandemic era and not unexpected. Some are desperate to hand out overdue hugs; others don't want to be touched by another human being for a while.

It's the dance of an abundance of caution, the residue of over a year of antisocial behavior, and nobody looks graceful. It would be nice if we could get back to something that looks familiar, and we will, but in the meantime there are going to be awkward moments.

Something huge, something overwhelming and dangerous and frightening has happened to all of us, and we're going to twitch for a bit. It helps to keep a sense of humor.

The other day, I locked my keys in the car in a Target parking lot. This is not all that easy to do with a 21st-century vehicle – I must have tried over the years, but the sensor in my dashboard will always prevent me from locking the door if I don't have the fob in my pocket.

Unless the sensor appears to be dying, as ours does, forcing me to hold the fob up to the keyless ignition button just to start the car, a situation that will most likely be fixed in six months, when I can't start my car and the whole thing will cost a lot more to repair.

I'm trying to be honest about my flaws.

So that's the explanation I'm sticking with. I'm not sure why I also left my phone on the front seat, although, again, maybe I do this a lot.

I've apparently been relying on the kindness of technology to keep my dumbness at bay, and I spent an interesting 30 minutes or so wandering around the parking lot, bumming cell phones off strangers and wondering how exactly this worked in the old days.

And then I sort of did it again, under different circumstances and with less hassle, but there it is. It's possible that these are shots across the bow, early warnings from impending memory issues, and I can't help worrying a little, but I really think I'm just rusty at this now.

I've also stubbed my toe a few times.

Because I've been doing the same things, eating the same food, enduring the same Zoom meetings, watching the same TV shows, and possibly wearing the same pair of socks for a long time now. I'm giving myself room for error, and I don't think that's a bad idea at all.

We weren't ready for a vaccine. We were hopeful, and anxious, and it's hard to retrace and figure out what we were thinking and when, but we didn't expect these results. We didn't expect vaccines that would progressively be demonstrated to not only be safe and effective, but remarkably so.

I honestly didn't anticipate a vaccine changing my behavior. I assumed we'd be mitigating this for a few years, and I wasn't convinced that live music or theater would ever be back in any significant sense.

Now this feels foolish, in a fun way. I wasn't optimistic enough, which might be a first for me, but then no one was encouraging a rosy outlook.

I expected an efficacy rate around the level of my annual flu shot, rather than the essential immunity we're now seeing, decreasing the hospitalizations and deaths among those vaccinated to zero, pretty much.

I didn't expect science to be this good, shame on me. I'm still negotiating with my inner Anthony Fauci, I realized the other night, still arguing with myself about the need to run a specific errand on a specific day.

I'm still mitigating my exposure, in other words, and I don't need to, although this doesn't feel quite so foolish. I suspect a lot of our learned behavior over this past year is here for the duration, if for no other reason than it makes more sense. Fewer shopping trips means I spend less money, although it doesn't have to be that way, it just is.

So I understand while we're still dancing. A friend went to church the other day, the first time in 15 months, an absence she probably couldn't have imagined before the pandemic, and she literally ran for the exits when it was over.

She wasn't the least bit worried about COVID; she was just overwhelmed by the numbers of people (and it was a small number, maybe 45), and the screaming alarms that will continue to go off, I suspect, for many of us for months to come.

I've flown four times in the past two months, but I'm not anticipating stepping inside a restaurant for a while. I've been inside Target a couple of times, but that's as close to a mall as I've gotten (and it's not that close).

I've had multiple hugs, but no handshakes. None of this is particularly logical, merely human.

This is why we step back when people get too close, or shirk from an overheard cough. It's why sagging masks have become the new sagging jeans, provoking irrational annoyance. It's why we're still wearing masks.

We are a twitchy people now, and we're going to be doing the Hokey Pokey for a little bit, turning ourselves around and leaving our keys in the car. A little understanding will go a long way, I think.

I also think I will change my socks now.

 

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