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There is light at the end of the COVID tunnel, and it's not a train

'Speaking to a woman behind glass used to mean you were visiting them in prison. Now it just means you’re buying lettuce,' writes Philip Maher in this edition of The Mercy Traveller

With vaccines flowing over the next few months and Guelph starting to open up a little, it may not be safe to go into the water, but at least we can see the water from our towel on the beach.

With respect to Winston Churchill: This is not the end…not even the beginning of the end…but perhaps the end of the beginning.

The government says by September we’ll be all be vaccinated. A recent Angus Reid poll shows that 36 percent of Canadians believe it’ll be 2022 before they get their shots. Rarely have Canadians’ expectations of government promises been so low. 

I have no real preference on the subject — whether I roll up my sleeve in September, December or 2022. I’m a patient guy. Call me foolish, but mostly I believe in what doctors tell me. I rather like wearing a mask, especially while grocery shopping. I get to talk to myself. “Why are we importing apples from South Africa? Can’t we grow our own?” Or, “You don’t look like you need that cart full of potato chips.” These are words actually spoken under the cloak of my mask. 

I’ve become a veteran mutterer. Good practice for my twilight years, perhaps. Talking to yourself is the only face-to-face human you can regularly confide in at present. If there is an anthem for COVID-19 it comes from Billy Joel: “You can’t sleep with somebody else, but sooner or later you sleep in your own’s okay, you wake up with yourself.” 

Over the last year I think I’ve become the most tedious person I know. I now understand my wife when she says she is bored with my stories. With only myself to talk to, so am I. 

This pandemic and its accoutrements have ushered in a topsy-turvy world. These days “self-care” has become a virtue. I was taught to avoid focusing on self. Speaking to a woman behind glass used to mean you were visiting them in prison. Now it just means you’re buying lettuce. 

I’m an extrovert. I thrive on contact. The nearest hand I get to hold is that hockey stick they use at the Tim Horton’s drive through. When I swipe slowly, it feels like we are best friends. Conspiracy theorists think the vaccine is probing our minds. I’d look forward to my mind being probed. It’s personal interaction with a new friend. 

Taking a lesson from business, I’ve learned to use COVID-19 as an excuse for not doing stuff. It seems slow answering of toll-free numbers, slow response from civil servants and all manor of mishaps are blamed on COVID-19. I’m sure I could get away with just about any crime before a judge if I gave the secret code of COVID 19. The judge would look at the prosecution with a knowing glance and simply say, “Let him go. Have a nice day and oh, be safe.” 

Like all crises, this one brings out the best in some people. Students at the Wellington District Catholic School made virtual cards for hospital workers. Wellington health-care workers are donning uncomfortable gowns and shields daily, and most of us have refrained from seeing relatives for 12 months. Admittedly, some may wish that could continue for years. 

If you’ve lost a relative to the disease, this has been a disaster. For others it’s been hard work in a different way. It’s not work like sweating from a digging hole — I’d prefer that. But, it’s hard in more subtle ways. It’s been frustrating not seeing friends frequently and pretending there is a six-foot stick between you and me when shopping for groceries. 

Who knew it would all be so trying? All joking aside, we’re inching closer. So, hang in there and as everyone seems to be reminding us, “stay safe.”