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State of Mind: A Return to Normalcy

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We’re starting to see the term “post-pandemic” a lot lately. But nothing seems to have changed, at least around my house. It feels the same as it did during the pandemic, except now I only have to wear a mask if I want to. 

And I want to. After two years it’s become second nature. I enjoy the anonymity at the supermarket. And it keeps my nose warm in cooler weather.  

Nothing seems to have changed because in this “post-pandemic” world, if that’s what it is, almost everyone I know has recently had or is currently suffering from COVID-19. My son and his family just went through bouts of the disease for the first time, and here we are over two years into the pandemic. 

Naturally the members of my son’s family did not get COVID at the same time. That would have shortened isolation times. Instead, they passed it among themselves like laterals of the football in rugby, so each one had to isolate on his or her own schedule.

So on it goes. Family and friends with COVID. More time apart. 

But change might be on the horizon. As things loosen up, it is my thought that we will see more and more people vie for Darwin awards. (If you are not familiar with the Darwin Award, it is given to someone who, through their own actions, “improves the breed” by removing themselves from the gene pool. Darwin awards are almost always given posthumously.) Two recent news reports offer glimmers of hope that things will someday return to normal.

One sign of normal is people traveling for vacations — and doing dumb things.

Just a few days ago a 25-year-old woman from Ohio was visiting Yellowstone National Park. She was near the “Old Faithful” geyser when she, against all the official advisories and warnings issued by the Park Service, approached a female bison. She got to within 10 feet of the animal. Yep, you guessed it. The bison took umbrage to the close proximity, charged the young woman, gored her, and tossed her into the air. The woman had to be evacuated to a hospital in eastern Idaho.

Reports did not say whether the woman was wearing a mask, but obviously she was on the verge of violating the six-foot social-distancing guideline, and that possibly set off the bison. Because of winter-enforced isolation, the bison probably had not yet heard we are entering a “post-pandemic” era and that many of the rules have been suspended. 

Another sign of normal is people in Florida doing wacky things. Now I know what you’re thinking, “But Lare, people in Florida are always doing wacky things. They even did a lot of wacky things DURING the pandemic.” You’re right, but those wacky things mostly happened in the governor’s office in Tallahassee.

This past week the body of a 47-year-old man was discovered by a person walking a dog near a lake in a park just north of St. Petersburg. Based on the nature of his injuries — according to one report his arm was torn off — authorities suspect the man had been killed during the night by an alligator. They also suspect he had been in the lake looking for, of all things, Frisbees. 

Now you may wonder why the man was looking for Frisbees at night in a lake that is completely surrounded with “No Swimming!” and “Beware of Alligators!” signs. According to reports, the unfortunate victim often frequented the park. In fact, he had been arrested several months earlier for swimming in the lake trying to retrieve Frisbees and warned to stay out of the water, so he must have been well aware of the danger. He should have considered the lake to be “Jurassic Park.”

It turns out there is a disc golf course along one side of the lake, and the discs end up in the lake as a result of “operator error” and prevailing winds. 

According to one official, disc golfers prefer to use more expensive “professional”-quality discs rather than the $5.99 versions available at supermarkets. Although such discs only run about $15 to $50, disc golfers are often happy to pay for discs that have been retrieved from the water. That, the officials concluded, was the motive for the man who was killed — selling discs back to disc golfers for a few dollars each. For him the possibility of profit, or, more likely, financial desperation, outweighed the potential risk. He lost the wager.

These two incidents probably would only achieve honorable mentions in the Darwin awards competition, but I am confident that in the coming weeks and months we will see more impressive evidence of, as Warren G. Harding dubbed it, a “return to normalcy.”