Masks, cardboard fans, constant ennui: Things that were odd a year ago
But in March 2021, these freaky pandemic behaviors are totally normal.
A mask discarded on the sand at Clearwater Beach last month.
A mask discarded on the sand at Clearwater Beach last month. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Mar. 4
Updated Mar. 4

As an anniversary gift to you, I will try to use the phrase “new normal” as little as possible.

What anniversary? You know what anniversary. We all felt an ominous breeze when the calendar turned to March, like a pilgrim poltergeist whispering, “You are going to learn to make sourdough whether you like it or not.”

So much has changed, and most of the unusual things we do on autopilot have been life-saving measures. That doesn’t mean they’re not weird.

Just the other day, I paused at Publix to consider a man shopping with a neck gaiter pulled up to his eyeballs. On this garment, a giant skull. Today, this is an edgy sartorial choice for responsible bread procurement. In February 2020, I might have run to hide behind the Totino’s Pizza Rolls (they are indestructible).

Herewith, I shall list things that would have been alarming just one year ago but are now the new normal:

Using the phrase “new normal” even though you promised not to just moments ago.

Masks littering trails and sidewalks in the manner of a Grey’s Anatomy 5K. Masks pouring out of pockets and laundry and hiding in car crevices like bag fries.

Pulling up a menu via QR code. What is this, the future? I was promised hoverboards!

The sign outside the veterinarian’s office that says STAY IN YOUR CAR, as if the animals are on the loose and have staged a coup.

Rolling out of bed, assessing your rapidly decaying body in the mirror, then shuffling to a laptop to start work in the same clothes you slept in.

Seeing hundreds of people lined up in cars at a stadium, not to pay $20 for parking, but to have long swabs inserted in their noses. Coincidentally, both acts produce the same feeling.

Speaking of the stadium, how about those cardboard fans? This simply cannot “stand.” We’re not “cut out” for this. It’s “flat-out” ridiculous.

Cardboard cutout Tampa Bay Rays fans at Tropicana Field on Sunday, September 27, 2020.
Cardboard cutout Tampa Bay Rays fans at Tropicana Field on Sunday, September 27, 2020. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Getting emotional over a single, 12-pound dumbbell on the shelf somewhere, and lifting an atrophied arm to spend $35 on it.

That thing when you’re walking past someone, but don’t want to get too close, so you both fan out, but then you’re each in the grass with mud on your shoes, and you try to crinkle your eyes politely even though your life is a living hell.

The sheer amount of hand sanitizer at entrances to stores and offices and schools. The streets run clear with alcohol, but not the fun kind.

Trying to help a kid use Microsoft Teams, only to have the child heave a sigh and pat you on the head, because the children are the teachers and we are the students.

Yard signs that suggest we’re all in this together, that we’re going to come out stronger, that the sun will rise again, and that, like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.

Apologizing for saying “new normal” one more time.

Related: Read more columns from Stephanie Hayes

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