Years from now will our grandchildren be telling their grandchildren? “Yes, I remember the days when you didn’t have to wear a mask to go to the store.”
I wonder what stories will be told, “… and then my kids caught me sneaking out of the house to buy groceries … “
It’s somewhat strange to sit in house arrest without an ankle bracelet and wonder what the world will be like when everything gets back to “normal.” What is normal? We throw that word around like it means something. In my job as a software engineer we often talk about “normalizing the data,” so we can better analyze a set of data. It’s a long complicated process of simplifying and standardizing the data set.
I won’t go into the complex math and statistics behind the evil practice – there’s nothing as complex as simplifying – other that to say it’s really a way to make the numbers behave the way we want.
Sadly, life rarely wants to be normalized by constantly throwing information and experiences at you that you’ve never experienced or thought you’d ever experience.
I was trying to get four “experiences” in that last sentence, but my grammar analysis software only allows for three variations of a word in a single grammatical structure (phrase, sentence, idiom, etc).
Anyway, the problem with normal is that any attempt to define it is going to fail as the only constant in the equation is change. 150 years ago it would have been normal for the average American child to get up at 5:00 am, feed the chickens, milk the cows, bring in the firewood, and ten other chores before breakfast. Not normal for today, and in fact a parent making a child do that would be subject to arrest. I guess we can say a new normal has taken hold.
So, here we sit, sheltered in place waiting for normal to return.
In aerospace and engineering we sometimes use the word, nominal – I love that word, “Engines firing, trajectory nominal”. Nominal has about 50 different meanings, but to an engineer it means, “within the acceptable limits of the plan.” In this example, the spaceship lands on the planet we were aiming at.
Certainly covid-19 isn’t nominal or even normal. Our big fancy computers can’t really predict the future because a pandemic is outside most data modeling (mostly due to unknown or unknowable factors). Just read the news reports in detail and you’ll see that there are many different mathematical models being used to predict the path of the infection. In many cases, the models and reality are very different – some places have far more cases than predicted while others have fewer and everyone wonders if there was a mistake if the two line up.
So, when will things return to normal? Which normal? The 150 years ago when you’re getting your eggs from the chicken coop or the 3 month ago normal when you just bought a dozen on your way home.
The best we can hope for is better than now. Perhaps normal will be everyone has enough face masks, hand sanitizer, and government rationing ensures that everyone gets the required amount of toilet paper (note that some people will be installing bidets so they can sell their TP on the back market).
I don’t know. Some things will be worse, some better, some just different.
But what I do know is that you can make your today the best it can be with whatever you have at hand with the people who are the most important to you.