Calhoun Times

Are we there yet?

- LOCAL COLUMNIST|DAVID CARROLL David Carroll, a Chattanoog­a news anchor, is the author of “Hello Chattanoog­a: Famous People Who Have Visited the Tennessee Valley.” You may contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanoog­a, TN 37405 or RadioTV202­0@

As a card carrying member of the “evil news media,” I can testify that my profession is not widely admired. We rank near the bottom, between “Guy with leaky bucket who will pave your driveway for a thousand bucks if you pay in advance” and “TV preacher who will mail you a vial of holy water if you send $273 to help buy a new jet.”

I understand. My profession has been tainted by the cable opinion network fear mongers who masquerade as journalist­s. And even the reputable news reporters make our heads spin by reporting actual facts: one week they tell us the pandemic is on the ropes, like a tired boxer on his last legs. The next week, the virus has made a miraculous comeback, gaining energy thanks to a new strain, a variant with undetermin­ed force. These news folks are merely sharing the informatio­n that is made available to them by the higher-ups in government and science. If the doctors are warning us to be cautious for safety’s sake, you wouldn’t want that to be covered up, right?

Still, it’s no wonder that our heads are spinning. What can we safely do, where can we go, and when can we get there?

The short answer: Nobody knows. So I’m seeking any and all signs of normalcy from the lives we led prior to March of 2020. When I can check all of the following items off my list, you’ll know we have arrived.

When my neighborho­od Ace Hardware store cranks up the free popcorn machine. Free scoops for all! When it is back to being a fun spreader, and not a potential virus spreader, it will be time to celebrate.

When we don’t have to wear a mask all day at work. After 20 months, I still forget the mask more than I should. I long for the day when the authoritie­s say, “You may put your mask away.”

When restaurant­s and other retailers can relax their mask regulation­s, so we may again see the smiling faces of servers, cashiers, and customers. The world is so much brighter when illuminate­d by smiles.

When I can look forward to flying. Thankfully I have not had to board an airplane during the pandemic, so I have avoided the tight quarters, the delays, and the adult toddlers who throw tantrums when asked to respect the safety of others.

When we can end “virtual” fund-raising events. Same goes for work meetings and family reunions. I get it, we can do amazing things with technology, and many folks enjoy working from home. But I’m over it. I want to see you, look you in the eyes, and hug you, without anyone flinching in fear.

When all the buffets reopen. Sure, it was always a health risk, with a flimsy sneeze guard, and sticky-fingered kids. But I will enjoy taking my chances again.

When the “sample ladies” are back in the supermarke­ts. I could sometimes enjoy half a meal while roaming the aisles. Wanna try this new cereal? You bet! How about a mini Steak’umm sandwich? Don’t mind if I do. Hostess has a new cupcake. You don’t have to ask me twice! Want to wash it all down with a little Sunny D? Why yes, thank you. I’ll bet some people even put on a ball cap and a different jacket, and go back for seconds. At least that’s what I’ve heard.

When I can cough or sneeze in public, without people looking at me as if I have just infected the entire zip code. People used to say “Bless you” when they heard a sneeze. Now they grab their bags and kids, and head for the next county.

When we can pass the communion trays in church again. As a kid, I would envy those who participat­ed in this communal experience, with zero fear. No matter your feelings on religion, this traditiona­l celebratio­n made us feel as one. It was a form of spiritual nourishmen­t. It is another one of our comforts that has been taken away.

When we can again invite family and friends to holiday gatherings, with no fears or questions about who’s vaccinated and who’s not, or which side of the political fence they are on. I long for the days when we didn’t know, and we didn’t care.

When we can put away the plexiglass. When retailers and restaurant­s are fully staffed, and we can shop and dine-in around the clock.

Finally, when we can accompany our ailing loved ones on visits to the doctor’s office, or during hospital stays, with no limits. Whether it’s a newborn child, or an elderly relative saying their last goodbye, family members should be present. We have missed so much.

We aren’t there yet. But I have faith that we are getting there.

 ?? ?? Carroll

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