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GARY SMITH: Come on, feel the noise

Return to ‘normal’ will raise the volume by Gary Smith | March 19, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

I've seen the future, and, frankly, I'm not so sure about it. Maybe it will grow on me.

All right, so I'm not talking crystal balls or tarot cards here. Mostly, the Lovely Mrs. Smith and I got out of town for a few days. Which is to say, we jumped into a hermetically sealed auto and drove straight to a virtually sealed cabin at a resort where we stayed away from other people and ordered take-out just so we'd be somewhere other than our house for a bit.

And things were just fine and dandy. Cabin was nice, setting was beautiful, lots of good stuff going on. And then we made a mistake that gave us a glimpse into what will be. And I'm not so sure about it.

We went into a restaurant (to pick up carryout) that was part of what can best be described as a bowling alley/arcade on steroids. Which, again, fine. I've picked up carryout before. It's just that there were ... people. Lots of people. More people than I've seen, live and in person, in some time.

I'm not sure how I feel about.

I mean, at this point, it's been roughly a year since I've spent much time around people I'm not related to. As a fully functioning introvert, that hasn't exactly been a bad thing, for me or for, you know, people. I can't say what it's been like for the people I'm related to, but by now, they're sort of used to it, I'm sure.

So, to suddenly be injected back into a large group of people, even as I was just passing through, was a bit of a shock. In the "let's just touch the red clamp to the black clamp" sense.

That's sort of the dirty little secret of Pandemic Lockdown. For a lot of us (more than will admit it, I'm sure), working from home, streaming Netflix and basically keeping to ourselves has not been the worst of all possible fates. Again, I like people. Mostly. More or less. From a distance.

So, as we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel (though quite a ways off; it's still a long, long tunnel), some of us – well, me, for sure – are having to contemplate what life is going to be like when we return to, if not normal, at least some semblance of it.

For one thing, I'm fairly confident a learning curve is going to be involved. It's likely a lot of us are going to have to re-learn the social "rules of the road," mostly because we haven't been "on the road" for some time.

How we all adjust to having a somewhat more rigid schedule that requires us to not only be somewhere, but have prepared ourselves hygienically to be there is going to be a challenge. Unless we're all comfortable with the concept of everyone showing up at a staff meeting in sweats or wearing a T-shirt we earlier wore when we almost successfully cooked spaghetti sauce. Which, I'm going to guess in advance, we're probably not.

And then there are the actual "rules of the road." Arkansans have always been somewhat "creative" drivers, so re-acclimating ourselves to a situation where there is enough traffic that you can't just freestyle it down the interstate is going to be ... interesting.

But the thing that struck me (along with a total sense of panic that some people still hadn't gotten the mask memo) was the noise. People, it seems, are loud. Actually, physically loud and loud to someone who has spent the last year in the relative quiet of a home office and an empty-nester lifestyle.

I'm sure you are nice and quiet and orderly and all that. But "people" are loud. I guess I'd forgotten that. Or blocked it out. And when someone with my hearing challenges tells you something is loud, that means the airport is calling to ask if folks can keep it down because they can't tell if the jet engines are operating.

So, when the happy day comes that we all feel comfortable coming out of the foxholes and bunkers, blinking, into the light of day, well, it's going to take a while for some of us to get our sea legs back. Or our people legs. You get the metaphor.

And you know, I think I'm OK with that. Because one thing I did learn while we were out of town, a thing I'm kind of loath to admit – I missed people. Even the loud ones.

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