Am I Allowed to Have Post-Pandemic Complaints?

We’re not out of the woods with COVID and the implications are a big deal.

Because I have not experienced the bone-crushing losses due to COVID that many have, I hate to complain about how it will be post-pandemic. Nevertheless, as we are possibly just emerging from the thick of it, I’m going to give myself the grace I’ve been telling others to give themselves and go ahead and complain.

Last week we went to Gibbs Gardens, a lovely, wooded spot in Ball Ground, Georgia — no, I’m not kidding about that name. You can see from my photos that it is indeed a beautiful place.

The day was intentionally selected to avoid crowds. And it was not crowded. I shudder to think about what it’s like on the weekend with more people, more kids, more noise. I’m sure it’s still amazing, just not as amazing. Especially these days.

There were singles, couples and small groups of people.

You know how you tend to stop and cluster together to talk when you’re with a bunch of people? Well, that happened. As I’m approaching one of these groups I’m starting to wonder, do I need to put my mask on?

Were I not vaccinated this could be one of those two out of three situations ((1) outdoors and (2) distanced, but not (3) masked, since said group was unmasked) in which you don’t need a mask. It would have been two out of three but as I pass the group it’s not distanced because they’re clustering and partially blocking the path. Of course, I don’t know if they’ve been vaccinated.

Even though I have been vaccinated (the two out of three rule is for the unvaccinated), I put the mask on. Maybe they’ve been vaccinated but since they don’t know if I’ve been vaccinated it seems only polite. No big deal. I do it a number of times as the same scenario unfolds.

My complaint is this: On lockdown, the two out of three rule is irrelevant. I’m not saying it’s gospel, it’s just a useful way to consider the risk. And now we have to consider that risk. Okay, no big deal.

The gift shop had a sign advising no entry without masks. It was not enforced. And I don’t blame the employees. You’re some person working in a gift shop in a red state with carry permits — why confront someone about a mask? Not worth it. There were some people inside without masks. I’m still vaccinated but it’s not outside. Maybe six feet, maybe not. Less than 15 minutes (remember that rule?). It’s probably not a big deal.

CDC guidelines for fully vaccinated people state: Outdoor visits and activities are safer than indoor activities. How much safer, or, more to the point, how much riskier, I wonder. The guidelines also state: Fully vaccinated people can participate in some indoor events safely, without much risk. What exactly is meant by “some?” Which events? You see how things are starting to become more complicated? But still, seemingly no big deal.

Let me back up and say that I checked the snack bar menu prior to leaving home. I’m not vegan, or even a true vegetarian, but I don’t eat much meat. The only non-meat item was the pimento cheese sandwich. I am not a fan.

This meant I had to pack snacks, a real throwback to my son’s soccer days. The point being, I haven’t had to pack snacks for over a year. No trips, no snacks. This is just post-pandemic laziness, right? Definitely no big deal.

It’s not my first trip away from home in a year. It’s my second. Several weeks ago, I attended a friend’s son’s rec league baseball game. Another small town in Georgia. We were literally the only people wearing masks. Again, it was outside. It was reasonably easy to social distance.

If you’re thinking that’s two out of three, you’re right; I didn’t really need a mask anyway because I was already vaccinated. But what about the restroom? Indoors, with unmasked people coming and going, raises the uncertainty bar. It was a small restroom, poorly ventilated, as you might expect in such a venue. Said unmasked people were coming and going, I’m guessing here, largely unvaccinated.

Largely unvaccinated is an educated guess based on the numbers in Georgia, one of the states with the lowest vaccination rates. Probably many, if not most, were not vaccinated. FYI, they were not socially distancing. I’m still trying to go with no big deal.

The other thing about putting on the mask at the game and at the gardens is that we are announcing, The Democrats have arrived!, loud and clear. I could care less about people giving me the side-eye or snickering behind their hands. The thing I’m complaining about here is that this is not something I had to consider on any level before things started opening up, when I was an invisible Democrat in a sea of Republicans.

Living where I live during lockdown, I might still be the only person in a place wearing a mask. Since I rarely left the house except to run outside, I was forced to consider only infrequently, as I breezed by, that I was making a statement.

Another thing to gripe about is the fact that my county school board has “quietly,” to quote the newspaper, decided to lift the mandate requiring masks in its schools. As a friend commented, “quietly” is a euphemism for “secretly.” I don’t have a kid in school, nor do I work in a school, but a lot of people around here do. Now I have to think about them. And whether they’re one of the people behind me in line, maskless, at the grocery or in a shop.

Since I have a psychotherapy and life coaching practice in town, I also have to think about them when I contemplate re-opening my office. Will my next client walk into an elevator that someone, unvaccinated, unmasked, has just exited? Do I want to be responsible for a client taking that risk?

If you think I’m exaggerating about the vaccination/mask situation, you can see the exposure risk for your county in the NY Times. My county: high risk. County to which I ventured last week: very high risk. County of baseball game fame: very high risk. I rest my case on the vaccination/masking situation.

I’ve been asking myself: Are we nearing post-pandemic days, or is all of this whining, complaining and oppositionalism about masks and vaccinations simply going to push us right back to where we started? Are we a nation of people lacking the minimal intellect required to know a global pandemic when they see one? Is it beyond us to take in some of the of the basic implications of said pandemic? All of this is starting to seem like a really big deal.

Maybe I would not be complaining about what I encounter when I go out if I believed that other people were as concerned about protecting me as I am about protecting them.

Okay, I understand that I can move. That’s what a lot of my neighbors would tell me in a charming, Southern way, along with, just sayin’, and a don’t-mean-anything-by-it shrug. But there are reasons I live in North Georgia.

There is a Zen-like peace to the gardens. I felt it. I felt it until I encountered that cluster of maskless people milling about and saw them blocking the path before me.

It was the same the other morning, running near home on an almost empty path. I could smell the honeysuckle, could hear the birds, saw a bluebird and two great herons soaring in for a landing. I felt that same kind of peace, until a large group of people got out of a van. I was finished with my run, but I felt bad for the people running after me whose path would be blocked by maskless, likely unvaccinated, people.

So go ahead and complain with me. Give yourself the grace to be angry and whiny about whatever’s bugging you as we hopefully near post-pandemic life.

As for the rest of you, how about just wearing a damn mask and stepping aside to give a person six feet? Perhaps get a vaccination. Is it really that difficult? You know it’s not. Can’t you see we’re not out of the woods yet?

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Psychologist and life coach. Also, parent, writer, runner, yogini, healthnut, arts lover. Connect with me at www.drjudithtutin.com

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Judith Tutin, PhD

Judith Tutin, PhD

Psychologist and life coach. Also, parent, writer, runner, yogini, healthnut, arts lover. Connect with me at www.drjudithtutin.com

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