Antisocial Distance

I find myself backing up, stepping away. I want to say too close or give me some space. I want to grab a mask. The mask mandate at work lifted when the CDC told us to relax a few weeks ago. The pandemic ended, at least for the vaxxed.

That first week, nothing changed for me. When I picked Sophie up at school, she had covid. I didn’t quarantine, I wore a mask. I wore it all day driving home from Vermont. I wore it around the house when Sophie came near. And of course, I wore it at work.

I became self-conscious. As the only one in meetings still wearing a mask, I could hear their thoughts. Ugh, is he going to wear that thing for the rest of eternity? During conversations, I alone had the muffled mask sound. When I tested negative at the end of the week, I ditched my mask.

So stay outta my bubble, I’m tryin’ to breathe over here.

Yesterday, someone read Social Distance. Some of my blog posts get read almost daily. I’m used to seeing them pop up on my stats page. Not Social Distance. No one reads that one, not even me. I couldn’t even remember what it was about.

I wrote it two years ago, a few days after the country shut down. I just finished a trail run. I couldn’t believe how many people I saw hiking the trail I ran. Getting into my car, couples and families strolled past me on the road. The park was full, for the first time ever. I expected to have the park to myself. With the world collapsing around me, I saw a glimmer of hope. No sports to watch, no malls to shop, no restaurants and bars to hang around, people decided to give nature a try. I finished my blog post with:

Maybe when the coronavirus is an ugly receding sight in our collective rear view mirror, some of those people will choose against shopping or TV sports and go out for another hike on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

When I wrote that, I had no idea it would take two years to get to this point, but as of right now, the virus is receding. Are people still out in the park? No, that only lasted three months.

In those first few months, bikes sold out. Nationwide, all the bikes sold. Not just the cheapo models from Walmart and Dicks, but in bike shops too. First the five-hundred-dollar bikes, then the thousand-dollar jobs, and finally the bikes that go for five gs. But by mid-summer, the riders were gone. I rode loops in the national park by myself. Professional grade bikes slumped against the garbage cans in garages all around the country.

I don’t miss all those people in the park—I prefer to be alone—but I think it’s a shame. People heading outdoors was one of the few upsides of the pandemic.

And now, after years of masking and social distance, I seem to be ruined. A woman came in my office last week to ask some questions about a report. She stood next to me, I sidled away. She came closer, I stepped to the side. I catch myself doing this almost every day. My bubble—my personal space—was exaggerated before covid. Now, it’s expanded. I simply don’t want to breathe your air. So back off.

I’ve read countless articles about the ‘lasting effects of the pandemic.’ When I see that phrase, I think of long covid and disrupted learning for school kids. I think of all the restaurants and shops that went out of business, and of course, all the people who died. But I suspect there are countless subtle changes that will affect all of us for the rest of our lives. Will I ever sit in a packed movie theater again? I doubt it. I didn’t like to before. Now it strikes me as a pretty effective torture the devil might implement in hell.

Many of us introverts felt antisocial before the pandemic. After spending months and years alone, will I be able to bounce back to my old, insufficient social baseline, or has yet another barrier formed? If the pandemic is truly over, I should start inspecting my behavior for new undesirable habits. I take half the showers I used to, and I only shave three times a week now. I still can’t decide if that’s good or bad, but it’s a pretty big change.

I think it’s too bad that people flocking to outdoor exercise isn’t one of the lasting effects of the pandemic. But given my inclination towards antisocial distance, it probably suits me fine.

Ove the last two years, what changed about you?

29 thoughts on “Antisocial Distance

  1. I’ve always had a wide social distance space, even before Covid. I like that social distance has become a thing and one that seems to have stuck pretty well. I don’t miss masks at all, I was so tired of them by the end. We also had check ins with our phone and I’m glad to be rid of that as well. We are coming into winter here and I’m not sure what that means for Covid a lot of people say it will skyrocket but I’m
    Not so sure. There are days I don’t even think about it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think here in the states, with the mild symptoms people are seeing with infections, a lot of the fear power of the disease has faded. There are still many infections, evident in our death rate of 800 people per day, but it seems like most people don’t even report their positive tests to their doctor any more. I didn’t think it was possible, but covid will not color everything forever after. Of course, there is always the next variant.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s the same here Jeff, people are just over it and the media has had other things to focus on as well so that removes the intense spotlight that has been shone on it for years. I’m hopeful it is choking a itself out.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Jeff. While I think there will be lasting effects from covid in many aspects of our lives, I hope they are relatively minor. As far as how it has changed me, I really can’t think of anything I do differently now than I did pre-covid. Like you and your shaving, not sure if that’s a good or bad thing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I used to hang out in coffee shops a lot. I only got home internet service at the end of 2019, so coffee shops were where I went for the internet. Even after I got home internet service, I still went to coffee shops out of habit. But in March 2020, I started working from home. (Boy, was I glad I had finally broken down and got home internet service.) I hardly ever go to coffee shops now. And when I do, I just sit outside with my coffee and watch the world go by. It might actually be a nicer way of spending my time — and it’s certainly the way I used to enjoy my coffee before WiFi came along. But it still amazes me how such a confirmed habit was permanently broken.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So interesting. It’s been strange going to movies, or getting in to elevators again. People are usually polite, asking if I mind their proximity in an elevator, and sometimes, I choose not to get on if there are already a few in there. No one seems to mind. In the theatres, everyone sits far apart, by choice, and no one seems to mind. My personal space perimeters have definitely expanded too, and to some degree, I’m grateful that despite the lifting of the mask mandate, people in health care facilities are still required to mask up, so I still wear a mask at work. It’s like a security blanket.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The mask mandate was lifted for us about a month ago. Declan goes to school early three days a week for math tutoring. When we pulled up to the school on that first day I watched Declan and two other kids apprehensively get out of their cars, with wide eyes eyeing each other to see if it really was okay to not be wearing a mask. Like Declan, each one had a mask in their hand just in case. Since then, all three of the kids have had the flu. They tested negative for Covid, but they had fevers, coughs – the whole nine. Since they were sick I masked in stores and felt the same way you did. Like pople were looking at me with an eye roll and a visible, “C’mon! Take it off!” I don’t have much issue with personal space, in that, I am not really ever around others. I DO think I am worse off socially because of the pandemic. I do notice that if I try to talk to others I have pressured speech and things don’t come out quite right. I didn’t really have great social skills before the pandemic and having not used them for so long, they’re really awful now. But I guess in time, I can work back to my mediocre baseline.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Things never really changed for me except having Ben home full time before school opened back up. It took a while to get used to the mask, and I still carry one with me, just in case, but all I ever did was grocery shopping or doctor appointments🤷🏼‍♀️

    My “corner market” dropped masking before the state. They mostly didn’t mask at all behind their plexiglass, so it was easier for me to “practice” being bare-faced there.

    I’ve always timed my grocery shopping for the less crowded times… around 10am😉 so the distancing thing wasn’t an issue and people seem to do it out of habit now. I stopped masking there when the employees did.

    I’ve found that I worry more about invading someone else’s bubble than them invading mine. I guess *that* tells you everything you need to know about me, huh?!🤪

    Good thing you’re shaving less. Inflation, supply line, etc… keeping a supply of your favorite razors will be easier if you aren’t using them as quickly.😂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I definitely withdrew socially and that maybe coincides with going sober, but I got a lot more insular, which I know isn’t healthy. But fuck it! Started playing xBox and hiking a whole lot more, went mostly vegetarian. That’s what’s new here, not much. I feel some of that similar bubble effect myself. Glad I WFH about 100% but would still be glad to go in occasionally, just don’t need to…ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sobriety was the coffin nail in my move towards isolation (outside my family). For the past few months, I’ve been intentionally more social–going to a weekly spin class and trying to be more outgoing at work, I’m contemplating an open mic this weekend. It’s hard to make in roads after 6 years of shunning interaction.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Open mic, wow! That sounds awesome and you should do it. Though I’m almost giggling, picturing you doing that masked 😜. Wink wink, ha ha! Be well my friend. Sounds like you’re going fine all things considered.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s been a couple months since masks were required here (I think?) So when I see someone wearing one I just assume they’ve been exposed and are being considerate!

    As for changes, I definitely feel you on needing a wider personal bubble of space now. I’m VERY aware of every little cough, sniffle or sneeze I ever hear now. One change I would appreciate keeping is companies’ acceptance of home or hybrid working. It used to be a rare event one had to justify to everyone, but now I love the flexibility.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The work from home thing never worked for me (too many paper files) but I appreciate the lower traffic on the roads. I was hoping my wife, who has a long commute, could work from home more but that didn’t materialize. Really tired of it. Sophie’s roommate just tested positive. we could hear the weariness in her voice.


  9. Hi Jeff.
    Would you believe I wrote you a comment at about 6 am today only for my computer to refresh itself and wipe out my comment! Anyway, I’m glad I looked your blog up (as you did mine). I like this post and your point of view plus those of some of your readers.

    I’ve only very recently stopped wearing my mask except in medical environments etc. However, I do make other exceptions like if I have to go in a lift as you mentioned. Then, I’m very aware of people, perhaps, breathing down my neck. I don’t much like being in a supermarket queue when the person in front and the one behind are far too close for comfort. Also, as a pre-Covid serial ‘hugger’, I now restrain myself and keep my hugging for friends and family 🙂 . As an asthmatic, I sometimes cough quite a bit and I do get some really filthy looks.

    What has changed for me from the beginning and during the pandemic is that I’ve gone back to studying via zoom. Zoom has been a life-changer for me and has really opened up my world. I’ve not gone back to the classroom yet, but intend to do in due course. To think, hardly anyone had heard of zoom; now, people like me are ‘seeing’ friends in other parts of the country and world and my son quite often uses it for business meetings.

    Looking forward to reading more of your blog. Ellie 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I Hate it when I lose a long, thought out comment. I commend you for writing it again. I usually give up. I’m actually in a medical waiting room right now with no mask—there were none in the car. I’m huddled in the corner trying to avoid all the coughing people.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I, for one, am glad the trend to “get outside” during the pandemic is not lasting. My usual happy places were no longer so happy with more people. As for bikes, having moved to rural Vermont I want to buy a gravel bike, but can’t find one anywhere. When when all those people who bought bikes in 2020 admit defeat and sell their outdoor equipment to those of us who will actually use it??!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I am not anti social but I like my own space.
    If I haven’t invited you in please stay out.
    We still have to wear masks in shops.
    This pleases me because our irrational government said you do not have to isolate if you are positive!!!


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