The new coronormal

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of our Finnish #coronageddon. Tomorrow last year our government held a press conference where they announced all those temporary restrictions that have become our new normal – at least for the time being. It marked the start of an era that has yet to come to its end. We all thought it would be a few months, but here we are, a year later, waiting to get vaccinations that may or may not end the pandemic. Sometimes I think this stuff won’t be over until those who’re going to die of Covid-19 are dead, and the rest survive together with the virus.

Last year tomorrow Daughter was on her way to dance classa after school, for the first time in weeks, after being sick and sick again for quite some time. I called her two hours before dance class: “Sorry, kid. Come home. Dance school has closed its doors.” Everything closed their doors. Restaurants went into take-out mode. People stopped going to the office. Schools were closed. Everything became remote everything. Teams. Zoom. Something.

Year later, here we are still and again. After a less covidy summer the society started to gradually open up a bit again. Dance classes started again (though I did not attend and adviced my daughter not to attend either). Gyms opened. Restaurants opened their doors with limited seating. Most information workers I know still stayed mostly at home, even after the masks were finally introduced into our Finnish Corona fighting arsenal too, but I had started to go to the office in August, and just could not go back to staying at home all the time anymore. For reasons.

Now, after a half a year of using a face mask in public, it has become just a part of going out gear. No, I don’t don it every time I step out of the door, but I frequently forget to take it off when stepping out of the bus or coming out of stores. Once I was half way home from the bus stop almost 2km from home before I remembered to pull it off, when I started to wonder about the labored breath. I still have P3 (KN95) filters inside my cloth masks.

Another thing that has become a no-brainer already is avoiding to touch anything with bare hands out in the public. Pressing elevator buttons with cell phone, pushing doors open with elbow, pulling hand inside of the coat sleeve to pull a door open, leaning on escalator railing with forearm instead of hand, touching only what you buy in stores. And still using hand sanitizer at every opportunity.

Still, here we are, a year after it all began here, with Covid-19 case counts approximately at the same level as a year ago. Actually, there’s more registered cases, but there’s also a whole lot more testing. The amount of hospitalized people is still a tad less than it was at worst last year. And now things are being closed down again. Our government is thinking about curfews and other restrictions to people moving out and about – something they didn’t really do at all last spring. If you don’t count closing down the Uusimaa province as such.

The main difference is that people are not hoarding toilet paper. Or sanitizer. Even face masks are available everywhere, in all different formats. Cloth masks with and without filter pockets, surgical masks in every color, FFP3/KN95 masks with and without breathing valves, you name it. Last summer I bought this little purse with the idea that I can easily slip my phone into it, while otherwise just keeping it in my bag as a wallet, but now the space for the phone is taken up by a mask. So that I always have one with me.

I admit to living a rather normal life. I go to the office twice a week, I shop in stores occasionally, I’ve eaten in restaurants now and then, I get my hair done regularily, I have even had some tattoos and piercings done in recent months; my next tattoo appointment is tomorrow. Then again, otherwise my life is a boring life of a total homebody anyway. I walk the dogs, but as for hobbies, I’m fully content with my books.

Still, this time is taking its toll on me, too. All this everyone (erhm, husband) at home all the time. All this everything online (yes, certain things like trainings are immensely better done onsite, face to face). All this precaution. All this unease. The sheer understanding that we are living with an invisible enemy.

All these masks masking our faces. I do hope it won’t become a new normal. I do believe that a true smile can be seen in the eyes (even more than the lips), but still I would’ve wished that the old lady I helped off the bus would’ve seen me smile at her before I turned to walk away. That the other lady I helped on the bus a week ago when her groceries spilled all over the floor had seen me smile at her before I sat back down to stare out of the window, my mind blank again.

Then again, with the mask nobody can see my mouth agape when I sit dazed, lost in space, with music blasting through my AirPod, dulling my thoughts. So I guess there’s that silver lining in this.

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