The Virus Diary: Return to "Normal"

It had to happen sometime and it seems like that time is here.  The time when I am returning to "normal."  When I say that you know I mean "the new normal."  Not life as we knew it, but life has it will be until it won't.  A new phase that we will all have to go through.  

A return to a semi-normal life started on the 23rd.  Three things happened that day that put me (and my family) squarely in the "welcome to the unknown world, where you aren't necessarily safe, but you need to be as safe as you can be."  Make sense?  It's a world I'm about to enter.

It started with a return to the all-volunteer church thrift shop.  We've been closed since early March (I think the last time I volunteered there was on Saturday, March 7th for a brief time before heading over to the high school where my son was performing in the "spring" musical).  The plan was to be open 10-1 with only 4 volunteers, one of which was a specified cashier, and 10 people allowed in the shop (which is housed in the church basement and access to any other part of the church is blocked off).  All volunteers were masked and gloved and no one was allowed in without a mask.  While I couldn't volunteer to work because it was a "work day" my son could and I felt comfortable letting him do so for an hour and a half.  The two of us have been volunteering with this group since 2012 (or at least I have, my son really only started working over the past year or so) and I trust these women.  I coordinated with the woman who was opening (and also acting as cashier) and my son and I went down an hour before opening.  We brought with us some donations.  (Not everything I want to donate because I didn't want to overwhelm.  While the shop has been closed, there have been volunteers taking donations and doing their best to safely sort through items.)  Masked, the three of us brought donations down and carried items up to be put out on the "free" table.  (I can say with confidence that no matter what ends up on the free table someone WILL take it.)  Going back felt good and was a safe as it could be.

The second thing that happened was a dental appointment.  Actually all three of us visited the dentist yesterday; one right after the other.  For my son and husband it was a 6 month checkup; for me it had been nine months since my March appointment had been rescheduled several times.  I've never been a fan of going to the dentist (although I like the people who work there), so I didn't mind the postponement.

The experience was definitely "new normal."  The appointment was confirmed several times.  Each of us had to fill out a health related questionnaire prior to our appointment.  Once we arrived we had to call and let them know we were outside and were told when we could come in (masked).  Once inside, our temperature was taken.  If it registered over 100.4, we would be asked to leave.  Both my husband and I did have a slightly elevated temperature, but we had both walked half a mile to the office and it was over 90 degrees outside.  We were allowed into the treatment room and given protective eyewear. This was definitely a first for me.  Then our temperatures were taken again; after being in the air conditioning for a minute or so, our temperatures went down.

Once I was "good to go" I was asked to remove my mask and use a dental rinse.  Then the hygienist AND an assistant, both wearing gloves, masks and facial shields, cleaned my teeth. Other than having two people in the room, the procedure was just like any other visit I've had.  Not horrible, but not fun.  (Again, I'm just not a big fan of going to the dentist, but I know it's necessary and I go regularly.)  When she was finished, the dentist did his check and then it was time to put the mask back on and go out to the reception area and make our next appointments.  I am being hopeful that my son will be in school and I will be in my office and made sure our appointments were for later in the day in 6 months.

Which brings me to my final "thing":  returning to the office.  Yesterday I got the email with a return to office date. (Not ALL offices, as we have locations worldwide; some of have already opened).  The return date is 2 weeks away and voluntary (at this time) with a bring your own mask policy.  Because we are a small office and there is plenty of open space, we can work in our regular space.  (I have a relatively large cubicle with no one in front of me, a person who comes in maybe once a week across the aisle from me and a person who works behind me who has already said he will not be returning to the office until the fall.)  Office safety is not a big concern for me; there IS plenty of space to social distance in our office suite.  My concern is shared spaces like restrooms; which are shared by all the suites on the floor.  And also, to be completely honest, I don't miss the commute on Route 3.  (As well as the ongoing construction.)  I do miss my co-workers (many of whom won't be there), my window (even though it can get hot), my large monitor (which is part of the docking station at my workspace) and the quiet (there is still plenty of construction going on next door).  Even if I don't go back on the designated open date  (actually I won't because I will be on vacation for the first two days...and that is sure to be another blog post), a return to the office is definitely in my immediate future.  And a new way of dealing with life in an office building IS a reality.

The pandemic is NOT over, but it is time for a new reality for me.  It is time to remain careful and to know that while you will not (or may never be) 100% completely safe, you can and should be as safe as you can be.  Not just for yourself but for others.  (And that means wearing a mask; not just over your mouth but your nose too!)  I'll do my part...I'm hoping (and trusting) that you will do yours as well.

Stay safe.  Stay well.



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