As you may have noticed by now, I’m “old school,” which is a way of saying you’re old, but by adding the word “school” it softens the blow.
Unlike my younger (new school?) colleagues, I keep an old-timey paper calendar, and I write in my appointments with an ancient liquid called “ink.”
This makes my skinny-jeans friends smirk and giggle as they refer to their pocket device for guidance on when to sleep, when to wake up, and how many bags of organic carrots to order from curbside pickup. (I’m old school about that too. Safety or no, I don’t want a teenager who rushed to work straight out of gym class squeezing my produce.)
As I was looking over my 2020 calendar on New Year’s Eve, the proof was on the pages. I was stunned to realize the empty year I had just experienced. I compared each month to 2019, which now seems like twenty years ago.
During the year “Before COVID,” I had visited more than one hundred schools, which is part of my daily TV news job. Since March 2020, I have visited one, and that was with one foot in the door, to drop off a donation.
I looked back on all the 2019 lunch dates with friends, a vacation or two, a couple of Braves games, a few concerts, a haircut done by an actual barber every three weeks, and an annual holiday family gathering that became a tradition long before I was born.
My 2020 calendar, after March 13, included no vacation trips, no Braves games, no concerts, haircuts only at home (thank you dear wife), and no family gatherings. Even my own sons stayed away. They looked at my particular zip code, and thought it would be a bad idea to visit the nation’s number one coronavirus hotspot.
I then reviewed my online photo albums, where my pictures have been stored for the past several years. During a random month in pretty much any year prior to 2020, I was all over the place, snapping pics for work or pleasure.
My 2020 photo albums are non-existent, as if someone hit the “pause” button on my life. For the first time, I didn’t see my sister on Thanksgiving, either of our birthdays, or at Christmas. If my future grandchildren someday ask me what the pandemic was like, they’ll just have to take my word for it. I have no photographic evidence. I guess I could have taken some pics of myself on the sofa looking out the window, but why bother?
I did take time to read a book about classic TV anchorman Walter Cronkite. I learned that once he had achieved “legend” status, and the power that comes with it, he would take the entire summer off each year to go sailing.
Since I have neither the status, the boat, or the cash to do that, my summers are spent on dry land. But it made me realize that some folks do go on safari, or take a sabbatical to get away from it all. I have read about adventurous people who take a backpack, and nothing else. No phone, no technology. Their goal is simply to commune with nature for a year or so.
I’d be willing to bet that someone did that in early 2020, and they’re just now arriving back in the USA. They’ve been disconnected from reality, living off the land, with no access to information.
I can only imagine the conversation that takes place when they reacquaint themselves with America.
“Ah, home at last! I can’t wait to sit down and enjoy a meal here at my favorite restaurant!”
“Um, sorry sir, but we can’t serve people inside any more. And where’s your mask?”
“What is this mask you speak of? And if I can’t eat here, I’ll just go to the football game and grab a hot dog!”
“Too bad pal, but the team has tested positive, and even if they were playing, no fans are allowed inside the stadium.”
“Tested positive...for what? Wait, I thought I was back in America! What about my freedom?”
“Relax, dude. Your turn is coming. Be patient, and you can get vaccinated soon.”
“There’s no need for any vaccination! I’ve had all my shots. I’m wasting my time here. I’ll run to the supermarket and restock my pantry. I just need some toilet paper, Clorox wipes, and paper towels.”
“Umm ... yeah, about that ...”
“Well, I’m not sure what happened while I was gone, but at least I can count on one thing. I stayed away long enough to miss the election. I cannot stand the negative campaigning, and the annoying commercials. Thank goodness that’s over!”
“On second thought, sit down, friend. You may need a drink.”
David Carroll is a Chattanooga news anchor. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.