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“What should I do?”
It is a rare moment that my adult son asks.
It is an even rarer moment that I don’t have a laundry list of mostly useless advice.
But I’m stumped.
Should he cancel his planned trip to the Consumer Electronics Show — the mega-convention for his industry, where he has dozens of meetings planned, not to mention a mega-holiday weekend with his longtime girlfriend? Thousands of people are asking themselves the same question.
Should I cancel my lunch with Annie, where we will gossip and maybe even shop afterward?
Here’s my answer. After two years of canceling everything, avoiding everyone, going nowhere, buying nothing that I could see first … I don’t want to.
It comes down to that. Science? What is science telling me? Science told me six feet was the right distance — until it came time for school, when three feet became enough. Quarantine was 10 days — until the planes couldn’t be staffed, and now it seems five days is plenty.
No disrespect to the scientific miracles that brought us vaccines and saved untold lives, and keep saving us, but as for an answer to whether to eat inside with a bunch of other people who have also been vaccinated, according to their cards, who knows?
It is hard to understand, scientifically speaking, why we are all safer even though we all know vaccinated people who have gotten sick and gotten other people sick; some people get sicker than others; and while having a vaccination and treatment plan has cut the mortality rate tremendously, there are still an awful lot of people in bed this holiday season.
Many more than last Christmas, for example.
It just doesn’t feel that way because many of us are refusing to act that way. We are not locking down. We are not staying home. We are not being nearly as careful as we were last year at this time.
Are we wrong?
Are we being selfish?
There are still plenty of people for whom COVID-19 poses life-threatening risks because of other underlying conditions. My sister is one of those, because of a heart condition. Rosie, my nanny of three decades, is another because of active chemo. My sister goes to the grocery store and to the synagogue (where, as president, she enforces all the mandates). Rosie goes more places than I do.
It’s times like this, of course, that provide opportunities for leadership. People like me spent a year bemoaning the failure of former President Donald Trump to unite this country and lead us out of the wilderness.
President Joe Biden’s 500 million home test kits — the ones I tried gave me two accurate results and three false positives for a total waste of two days and close to $100 — hardly seem like an answer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has, both fairly and unfairly, come to be seen as totally politicized.
Even the legendary Dr. Anthony Fauci can’t fill the gap.
This much I know: I’m not the only one who is looking for any excuse I can find to go out. To have conversations with people instead of screens. To go — strike me down, but I mean it — to an actual, in-person meeting.
My law partner comes over to do what we might accomplish on the phone. And, miracle of miracle, even with the socializing and small talk, we get more done when we’re together — not more writing, that remains my solitary pursuit, but more thinking, more ideas, and definitely we have more fun.
My father used to say, “There’s a reason they call it ‘work,’” and of course that is true, but working remotely generally means working alone, which after two years easily translates into a kind of professional loneliness that calls out for escape. Mind you, I know how lucky I am to have spent the pandemic in front of a computer instead of behind a bar (where a younger me would have been working her way through school — if I was lucky), but two years is a long time.
I’m ready to go back. To lunch. To conventions. And, yes, to work.
But is it wrong? Who is to tell us? Who do you listen to?