July 20th, 2024

It’s too early to celebrate COVID’s end

By Lethbridge Herald on March 26, 2022.

Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald

After two years of COVID-19 restrictions, we should all be breathing an unmasked sigh of relief that finally life is regaining its normalcy.

Masking is no longer required in public and restaurants and entertainment venues are back in full swing with no limits on capacities.

Hurrah, us! We can live again. Oops, not so fast there. Unfortunately, we are now contending with other problems including inflation, high utility rates and a war in Ukraine that threatens the very existence of humanity. And climate change is worsening, too.

So perhaps it’s premature to pop open the champagne and toast a return to normality, whatever that actually means and I’m not sure.

Two years ago this month, we were just beginning to feel the full effects of COVID-19. Arts facilities had to shut down, restaurants were forced to serve only takeout and businesses that were deemed non-essential couldn’t operate.

The afternoon that those restrictions went into effect I felt a horrible sense of dread come over me as I searched in vain for a home thermometer since I’d accidentally wrecked our only good one. COVID-19 panic was beginning to set in and like many others I wanted to make sure my household was prepared.

In those early weeks, a hoarding mentality hit and shoppers wiped out supplies of flour, yeast and meat from groceries stores. 

The lineup to Costco stretched to the far south end of the building as members attempted to grab toilet paper, bottled water and other commodities. If the liquor store had opened at 8, I bet it would have been cleared out, too.

The only thing I hoarded as I recall were jars of pickled eggs and bags of dog cookies because I’ve always marched to a different drum beat. At first, I found it almost laughable that store shelves were being emptied so quickly. But I quickly realized it wasn’t a joke.

 Stopping in at the northside Save-On one day to grab a Starbucks and sandwich for lunch at my desk, the full impact of COVID-19 on people hit when I was the only person in a long line at self- checkout that was actually purchasing normal stuff. Hand carts were filled with sanitizer and whatever was left on shelves for people to grab. That’s when I realized how serious this was.

Walking downtown on a mid-week morning was more like Christmas Day with no cars or people to be seen as many employees began working from home. I stood in the middle of 4 Avenue by the post office shooting photos of the vacant street with no worries about getting run over because absolutely nothing and nobody was around. Downtown Lethbridge was like a ghost town.

When I saw this, I began to immediately worry about my job security. It didn’t take long for restrictions to force many people temporarily off the job. 

Just a few months earlier, I’d told a colleague that anyone in any profession who was at the high end of a pay scale or seniority had to be concerned about job security in the present economy – before COVID hit. So I endeavoured to make myself even more valuable than I always have and I’ve always been a guy who has pushed myself to the limit to take on more work than I can handle just to try proving to myself I can do it.

I’m sure a lot of that comes from the lack of self-esteem I had as a kid in the dysfunctional home I’ve often written about which has made me for my entire life to try proving myself every single day of my existence. If I’m not pushing myself at work, I’m doing it on my own time by trying to walk as much as I can and help around the house as much as I can. Recent back issues have put a huge kibosh on the latter, though and I’ve actually found myself using a cane at times for assistance.

But normally I don’t quit and these back issues have given me a painful gut punch to the self-esteem because I base my value as a human being on what I can accomplish.

Pathetic but it’s true.

And when COVID restrictions came into play, I felt dread which turned out to be justified because shortly after I found myself being put on the sidelines for six months. With businesses closing down, advertising revenues tanked and it was inevitable that I was targeted for layoff. 

It was ironic that my last shift for six months came on Good Friday – I actually saw the humour in that and I considered it to be a good omen because my sense of humour is kind of warped.

And sure enough, six months later I worked my first shift after the layoff ended on Thanksgiving Day, and I truly was thankful for the chance to get back in the saddle because this newspaper has been part of my life since I was named – as I’ve also written before – partly after a Herald paper carrier in Warner.

So while like everyone else I should be celebrating the end of COVID-19 restrictions, I know it’s too early – the world is facing many more challenges that are potentially more deadly and permanent than COVID.

I just hope these challenges are survivable and we can get through them, as well. We’re not out of the woods yet, we may just be entering the forest.

Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.

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