I was late to work. Which isn’t my normal routine. I hate being late. I always give myself plenty of time to get where I’m going. Only during the pandemic traffic in Los Angeles has calmed down to the best it has ever been. A few months ago it took me 30 minutes to drive from the east side to the west. Where before Covid, depending on the time of day, it could take an hour and a half, or more. But now that the pandemic is “over”… well, at least now that people seem to think or maybe want the pandemic to be over. LA’s notoriously bad traffic has returned—with a vengeance.
I of course knew and dreaded this would happen. But I still wasn’t prepared for the long line of cars that has always been the pre-pandemic norm driving south on Highland into the commercial heart of Hollywood. When the traffic light turned green all these hyped-up-assholes gunned their motors, jockeying for pole position, crisscrossing lanes, and slamming their brakes at the next red light. The less adventurous suddenly felt bold enough to encroach my lane. Literally challenging me to either hit them or give in my right of way. Two cars in front of me a couple of weightlifting Neanderthals were screaming at each other. There was so much testosterone and pent up road rage I was feeling intimidated (and I’m an aggressive driver and not that easily bullied).
I don’t know if all this hostility was from repressed anger, being locked down for over 18 months, the pandemic, or that people had just forgotten how to drive… but it appeared as if they’d also forgotten how to be civil. Although one could argue that Los Angeles drivers never were that considerate to begin with.
But there was a decidedly new element involved.
People are ready for the coronavirus to go away.
Only it just isn’t going to do that.
But they’re tired of living in fear of the virus.
And that fear is being replaced by rage.
If you ever wanted to know just how fucked up American society is then all you have to do is look at all the self-centered folks that won’t wear a mask, the selfish ones that can’t stay home a minute longer, the stubborn ones that won’t get vaccinated, the deranged and paranoid ones so worried about government treachery, the delusional science deniers, and the liars that tell folks that vaccines are bad while they themselves are vaccinated.
Meanwhile last week the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health mandated that “Due to increased transmission, masks will be required indoors regardless of vaccination status.” And overnight all the folks that thought the pandemic was over streamed out of their homes flocking en masse to the malls, parks, shopping centers, restaurants, and beaches. Desperately trying to get in one more physical experience before another lockdown was put in place.
Fortunately that’s not my story. I’m not dying to share the great outdoors with two thousand of my closest online friends IRL (<– see what I did there?). I don’t miss a crowded nightclub pumping out insipid trance music to the amusement of sweaty hordes. I can probably survive not having to eat at the latest fusion food pop-up. I could give fuck all about shopping on the 3rd Street Promenade. And I really don’t need to rub shoulders while crowds of unvaccinated lame-asses descend upon the gentrified Grand Central Market.
Because truth be told the pandemic’s lockdowns and isolation didn’t really change my life. Except maybe the fact that I no longer had to make excuses as to why I wasn’t attending some uncomfortable social event. I don’t really engage in group activities. Parties are insufferable (I’m not a small talk kind of guy). Crowded public places feel claustrophobic. Large social functions are not high on my to do list. I tend to agree with Bukowski, “I don’t hate people. I just feel better when they aren’t around.”
When the government said stay indoors, avoid social interactions, and self-isolate, I was all, “oh hell yes. I was born for this.”
But other people freaked out.
They’re the ones that just can’t seem to live with only themselves as company.
I used to be like that. Back when I was a drug addict. I was my worst companion. I would do anything not to be alone. But then I got into recovery. I worked on myself. I did everything I could to be that person that I’d actually be friends with. And you know what? I realized I no longer wanted to be a selfish scumbag asshole. That’s another reason I got vaccinated. I don’t want to die, but I’m also part of a community. It’s no longer just about me.
There are people out there I didn’t even know I cared about.
Getting clean and sober will do that to you.
Which brings me to 12 step meetings. When the pandemic hit we scrambled to cope with the shutdown. Dope fiends and drunks need their meetings. So the first thing we did was go virtual and embraced the zoom platform. Overnight meetings switched to online. It was amazing and genius.
But from the very beginning there were those that cried that it just wasn’t the same. They missed the in person human connection and couldn’t wait to get back to physical meetings. So when the first dawning light of “freedom” showed its little face they scrambled to find a church basement to crowd into and pretend like everything was back to normal.
Except there were a ton of people that weren’t vaccinated—some even saying they were when they weren’t. And instead of insisting people get the damn shot, America adopted the “trust system.” Meaning we’re supposed to trust one another when we say we’ve gotten the vaccine. But yeah, people lie, and well, in response many are still weary of the coronavirus and while the CDC said no one needs masks they’re not so confident of other folk’s honesty or ready to return to in person anything.
And so basically overnight a huge divide erupted. 12 step groups business meetings, trying to decide whether to go back to being live, erupted into virtual fistfights. People were rude. There was yelling, anger, and self-righteous indignation. Conspiracy theories abounded. Shit was said that couldn’t be taken back and feelings were hurt. Meetings broke apart. Half went live. The other half sulked on zoom and eyed the other half with distain.
These are drug addicts and alcoholics were talking about here. Expecting them to be perfect without flaws isn’t reality.
Then the Delta Variant strolled in and everything went out the window.
Live meetings are backtracking or requiring masks.
Zoom meetings are smugly whispering, “We told you so.”
Sadly that moment for a conciliating group hug came and went (a perfect metaphor for what’s happening in this country today).
Meanwhile, those who didn’t get vaccinated are filling up the hospitals and dying, again.
I have done everything asked of me. I’ve been vaccinated. I’ve isolated. I’ve worn a mask.
But almost 50% of America wont and the coronavirus is still here.
My compassion and empathy is being replaced by sheer rage.
But I still don’t drive like an asshole.