The other day I stopped at BayMart in Brimley and filled up my gas tank. When I walked into the store to pay, I was greeted by the incredibly delicious smell of pizza! The gas station had been selling hot pizza or other items for two years where customers were free to open a display case and choose what they wanted, whether it was a fresh muffin from the local bakery or a piece of pizza. The coffee machines were on and we could help ourselves. Life as I knew it before COVID-19 seemed as close to normal as it could get.
Then I ventured to Bay Mills Casino and got another surprise. Players are now allowed to pour their own coffee or fill a plastic cup with a cold drink of Ginger Ale or another soft drink available at the fountain. Even the slot machines were in good spirits and shared some of their generosity with me. I’m not a gamer, but I was as happy as the people around me to experience a slice of normality. Masks weren’t mandatory, but if people chose to wear one, no one complained or gave them a sour look.
Buying gas or spending a few minutes in local casinos was as normal as breathing. Unfortunately, since the spring of 2020, even breathing has been a challenge for those suffering from the virus which has claimed many lives. Like other cities, Brimley and Sault Ste. Marie was not spared. We have lost members of our communities to the dreaded pandemic that seemed endless.
For a few minutes last week when I picked up a small box containing two slices of pizza, I had a feeling that everything would be fine. However, even though the outward signs of hope are all around us, life will never be “normal” again for those who have lost loved ones. The best we can do is offer words of encouragement and hugs now that most people accept a hug from a friend without worrying about being infected with a deadly virus.
Before things got bad, we took everything for granted. Most of us never imagined that walking into a crowded mall, movie theater or concert hall would be a potential health hazard. If someone near us sneezed or coughed, we paid no attention. Our shoulders could have touched strangers when we were queuing to make a purchase. There was no worry about “catching” something from them. We didn’t wear gloves when we opened doors or pushed a grocery cart. We have flown or traveled thousands of miles without thinking about inhaling the same air as the other passengers.
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I wonder how long it will take us to feel comfortable on a plane, a bus or a cruise in the Mediterranean with 5,000 other holidaymakers. I would like to visit a few European cities and make one last trip to Ireland, but I’m still hesitant. The romance of the trip fizzled out. I never had much interest in going further than 20 miles from home but with the endowment beating at my door I was ready to put in the effort before March 2020. Now I guess I will just watching YouTube videos and visiting remote places with weird-sounding names from the comfort of my recliner. The perspective lacks adventure and exploration, but I guess it will have to.
— To contact Sharon Kennedy, email her at authorsharonkennedy.com. Kennedy’s latest book, “The SideRoad Kids: Tales from Chippewa County,” is available from her, Amazon, or Audible.