Mark Kennedy: What will you do when the coast is clear on COVID-19?

Mark Kennedy, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.
·3 min read

Feb. 20—It's hard to know if our year of lying low will end with a whimper or a bang.

I'm betting a bang.

A few of us from the office were in a Zoom meeting the other day when the subject came up. "What will the summer feel like?" someone asked. "Will people go wild if they feel like the COVID-19 threat has finally lifted?"

I voted, yes, people will go wild.

By wild, I mean they'll party like it's 1999 — although Prince wasn't completely prescient with his "1999" party anthem. That Y2K fake-out was a wet blanket on the end of the millennium.

Still, I think July 4, 2021, might just pop the cork on a season of celebration that will rival the end of the world wars for sheer exuberance. Bring on road trips. Bring on long, boisterous restaurant meals. Bring on packed sports stadiums and screaming fans.

Mark my words: When we get to herd immunity, there's going to be a stampede.

Yes, of course, COVID-19 is still a menace. And you can still get disqualified from the post-coronavirus party because of a false start, but there's an unmistakable feeling that freedom is just around the corner.

What do you want to do first when the coast is clear? Here's my wish list.

— I want to enthusiastically shake hands with new people I meet and hug the necks of my friends.

— I want to pay more attention to people's smiles.

— I want to stand in a line at the supermarket without constantly having to resist the urge to spin around and tell somebody to back up.

— I want to stop taking my temperature every time I feel flushed.

— I want to cross paths with walkers without imagining that I'm walking through a comet's tail of deadly breath droplets.

— I want to sneeze without attracting menacing stares.

— I want to go to a soccer game and not be frightened by vuvuzelas, those long-necked plastic horns that, these days, seem suspiciously like spit cannons.

— I want to welcome my co-workers back to the newsroom, which has been sadly quiet for almost a year.

— I want to go to Waffle House guilt-free.

— I want to visit my son at college. He will be into his second year in school before there's a parents day.

— I want doctors' offices to get back to normal so old people won't worry that seeking medical help could backfire and kill them.

— I want all that Plexiglas in retail stores to come down.

— I want Amazon to stop telling me that it's time to restock on masks.

— I want to go to the movie theater again and splurge on buttered popcorn.

— I want to see Broadway shows at the Tivoli Theatre.

— I want to stop Googling the Hamilton County Heath Department for updates on vaccine availability.

— I want to gather with my Sunday School friends without worrying about the health consequences.

— I want to say "yes" without thinking twice when our 14-year-old son gets an invitation to visit friends.

— I want the lead story on the nightly news to be something besides coronavirus.

— I want to see my students' faces at the class I teach at UTC.

— I want everything to feel normal again, except for a lingering sense of gratitude that we fought the monster and won.

Email Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com.