/ TRAVELS IN MY MIND
I haven’t read Pamela Druckerman’s books but they’re on my list now that I’ve perused her elegant, insightful and occasionally funny ‘1843’ look-ahead to social life after lockdown.
It may be a bit precipitate – virus variants could still sicken the prospects for a socially carefree summer – but Ms Druckerman’s piece does have some deep truths.
For instance, as she writes, “In this year of staying two metres away from practically everyone, we’ve all become used to treating other people as potentially toxic”.
And that during lockdown, “our social skills have eroded”.
We have got used to not meeting people face-to-actual-face (in the new terminology I recently read somewhere else), to paying attention only to our top halves (that will be visible on video calls) and to not having to travel hours just to go to dinner with someone. We have got used to joining professional meetings online (with no other options offered) and for these to be structured affairs that normally last no longer than an hour. We are used to seeing out our days without any casual chit-chat – in offices, shops, on public transport…anywhere, really.
We are accustomed to staying in our own homes, eating every meal in the same space, with the same people (if we live with others) or on our own (if we don’t live with anyone).
Then again, there is something else that has also happened during lockdown and Ms Druckerman makes a note of it. There is more localism, in the sense of bonding within local communities. As Ms Druckerman writes, some people have “strengthened local ties”. She tells the story of a single mother in Paris, who “has taken to visiting an older woman in her building, out of a new sense of neighbourliness”. The single mum is also now much “nicer to nearby shopkeepers” because France’s 6pm curfew means “it’s in your interest, if you want them to let you in at 5.45”.
Whenever lockdown lifts, it will be humbling to see people reconnect – face-to-actual-face – again. My sense is there might be a slight awkwardness at the beginning but it will pass quickly and gladly as people rediscover the joy of hearing the human voice, seeing a friend’s eyes light up (something you can’t in the artificial connection over video) and giving someone a big hug.