Pandemic recovery period makes for some awkward encounters

Pandemic recovery period
makes for some awkward encounters

By GREG KLEIN • Special to


In May, I watched baseball and softball games across the county.

I saw a cross section of residents, from at least four local communities, most of whom I had not seen for at least 18 months, because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some people I had not seen for much longer, because I had been away from sports.

This is probably the least controversial statement I will ever make on the editorial page, and I will let my Southern voice make for effect: it is good to see all y’all.

One of the things the coronavirus pandemic has taken away from us is community. I can understand why it was hard on parishioners when churches were on remote services, because community is a big part of religious groups’ virtues.

The same could be said for sports and arts in the community. I know for us there are plenty of people we mostly see during soccer seasons and have now seen little of for two springs and a fall.

Occasionally we bump into people at the store, or I see a solo family member at a newspaper-related event, but it hasn’t been the same.

Last month, about a week into the various seasons, I noted I had stood and watched games with a school board president, a county judge and a former county board member and talked little about anything but baseball and softball.

It is fun to see people again.

I feel the same way about the arts. A week ago, we had a reading for a television pilot we hope to film here in the fall or winter. There were eight of us, all vaccinated, sitting around the tables in the Cooperstown Villlage Board of Trustees’ room maskless. It was nice. It was almost like getting back to “normal.” We were laughing and joking as if this had all been a bad dream.

I wish it had been a bad dream. However, there is no way to get back to normal for the millions worldwide who have died, or the half million or so Americans who have died.

And there is no way to make up for what our kids lost the past two years. Since mine is a sophomore, he didn’t lose as much as the class of 2020, who lost most everything about their senior year, or the class of 2021, who has had to endure two years of stunted school activities at the end of their time in high school.
Of course, all the kids are affected. I know I have mentioned several times the pandemic learning model did not work for my son, and I still have some lingering bad feelings about the way it went down. I don’t know if we can ever make up for the kids who did not get the attention they needed. And the likely result will be we blame the kids for falling behind rather than the adults who messed this up.

I will say we have had some great help from many teachers and administrators within the school system, because I do not want to single out Cooperstown as a bad system. The problems here were likely no different than other school issues around the county through the pandemic.

The pandemic has also revealed a lot of fault lines in our society: between those who believe experts and those who like propaganda; between those who care about others and those who don’t; between those who could work at home and those who had to risk their health to be “front-line workers;” between those who can’t understand why workers don’t want to go back to dead-end minimum wage jobs and those who know too well, especially now.

If history is any indication, we will deal with few of these issues, and we will just move on to the next news cycle of stupid. You know, like Fox News did 18 months ago.

I am the first to admit, it is weird to get back to normal. Awkward on my best days, I immediately feel overtaken with maskless people who want to return to hand shaking and close contact. In an 80s humor sort of way, I call them space invaders. It is like the episode of “Seinfeld” with Judge Reinhold as “the close talker.” Suddenly, everyone is a close talker.

Still, I am looking forward to back to normal, even if it is the new normal. We have a vacation scheduled for the first time, which will be the first time we went away since Thanksgiving 2019. In November, we will also get to visit family that we have not seen since then, but that we usually see two or three times a year. Sports and arts seem to be coming back slowly and I still have hope there will be state championship games played in the fall.

I am happy to see some tourists back and then, on some days, I curse at the New Jersey drivers and our lot as a tourist town. Perhaps that is the true indication things are getting back to normal, our (my) love-hate relationship with the tourists has been rekindled.


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