Pamela Druckerman in 1843 Magazine:
During a rare excursion to a clothes shop I took last month, an older woman walked in, looked around at the other shoppers and exclaimed, “humans!” It was an unusual moment of bonding with strangers. Mostly I just hold my breath as people squeeze past me at the supermarket. In this year of staying two metres away from practically everyone, we’ve all become used to treating other people as potentially toxic. Now that vaccinations are under way, we’re allowed to hope that we will one day emerge from hibernation. What will socialising be like on the other side? And how will we cope with being together again?
Psychologists who study individuals in solitary confinement, or those living in isolated conditions such as Antarctic research stations, warn that people can become hypersensitive and skittish after spending too long in their own company or with just a few others. Most of our lockdowns haven’t been quite that extreme. But the pandemic has changed our response to the world. My patience has certainly deteriorated. I’ve come to like Zoom calls, because I can click “end meeting” then jump into the bath minutes later. When I had a friend over recently for a rare, socially distanced dinner, I quickly realised that for the next few hours, every time he said something, I’d have to say something back. Again and again. I was trapped.
Others have lost their patience with me. I’ve stopped politely asking strangers to back off if they’re too close to me in the queue at the post office. They either huff about my “paranoia” or spew germs while loudly insisting that they’re definitely not sick. And we’ve misplaced our sense of what’s interesting. One friend keeps insisting we take a walk so she can tell me about her colonoscopy.