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One small step for us, one giant leap of faith

Driving to work the other day, I came upon a disturbance in The Force.

I believe, in olden times, it was referred to as “traffic.”

Cars and pickups, SUVs and Wide Loads jockeyed for position — a game of Frogger come to life — turning what lately had morphed into a unfettered 10-minute trip between home and office into a frustrating adventure requiring patience and undivided attention ... two qualities, it must be said, that rarely have been my hallmarks.

It was unsettling ... and wasn’t limited to vehicles that were driven in shouting distance of the posted speed limit.

Parking lots are fuller — a revolting development because the futility of out-of-practice drivers to navigate safely amongst other drivers, shopping carts and pedestrians is rivaled only by the inability of architects to create parking lots that emphasize logic and convenience.

Store aisles are getting congested as well ... and not just those scrums form for disinfectant wipes and toilet paper.

Where did all these people come from ... why are they here ... and what do they want?

We were finally assimilating to our self-protected lives — wearing our masks, avoiding physical contact, staying away from me ... oops, staying away from each other — and now that has begun to be turned inside out.

Heck, we successfully just orchestrated a state election without having to stand in line or, worse, utilize a communal pen. True, there were some head-shaking results ... but, aren’t there always?

But here we are ... baby-stepping on our gas pedals along the road to recovery.

Still, while Jackson County remarkably (and thankfully) has gone relatively unscathed thus far, only the blissfully ignorant would suggest that it’s time to turn the clock back to before life stopped.

This past week alone has seen more positive cases emerge in our baliwick then had the previous month.

So, I’m not ready to call this transition a return to “normalcy” ... and you probably aren’t either.

There’s hesitance when approaching others. Uncertainty when clustered at an intersection. It’s as though we’re squirming in the back seat and the universe keeps reminding us that no, we’re not there yet.

A slew of recent polls suggest, anecdotal evidence aside, that the vast majority of Americans aren’t ready to take their hand off their next chess move when it comes to the coronavirus outbreak.

Gallup has found that social-distancing measures are starting to slip — while 58% still practice them, that’s a drop of nearly 20% percent from a month ago. Gallup also found that optimism is slowly returning. The percentage of those who said they were “worried” about the risks of COVID-19 has fallen from 53 to 47 over the past four weeks.

But contrast those more upbeat findings against those in a survey conducted by the University of Chicago and The Associated Press, which found that 83% of us are concerned that the lifting of restrictions will lead to the much talked about “second wave” of infections.

We conducted our own social experiment this week by venturing out for an afternoon coffee break. For the first time since the middle of March, we entered one of our usual cafes, ordered, and took seats.

And, I have to admit, the feeling was ... well, odd.

Folks were scattered at tables placed apart from each other to satisfy state requirements. Conversations were subdued. Heads lifted and eyes tracked whenever something approximating a cough or (heaven forbid) a sneeze was entered communal airspace.

We have been in stores where those who apparently have little interest in warding off illness have congregated to chat or block passageways. No matter our best efforts, our desire to continue taking precautions depends entirely on the willingness of the person behind you to remain 6 feet back in the checkout line.

Those, however, are instances where you are seeking out necessities.

Our coffee shop visit was our first attempt at an indulgence — to extricate ourselves from restriction and engage in what social convention.

And what we found was that we weren’t quite ready. Your results may vary.

Coffee shops, grocery stores, oir rallies that would try to convince us that public health emergencies are actually politically motivated attempts to control us ... all of these are buyer-beware decisions we make on a daily basis.

Over time, the worry-quotient registered in a Gallup poll might drop to the levels seen when it was just the day-to-day that kept folks up at night.

Until then, the 83% apprehensive about a second wave will dip their toes in the water with one eye over their shoulder.

Everything is the same as it ever was ... and, for now at least, everything is different.

Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin can’t believe it’s almost June at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com.