CLXVI – Return to Normal?

It would appear that the whole deal about this coronavirus pandemic, at least on a local level, appears to be subsiding. The long-awaited time, that seemed impossible to reach in March/April 2020, seems to have finally arrived. Many, including myself, thought that masks would become a permanent fixture, as people see in pictures of people walking along the streets amidst the pollution of Beijing, China.

People wearing masks in a highly-polluted city in China

Yes, it would seem that a normal life is beginning to return. Masks are no longer required in most places. People who haven’t received the coronavirus vaccines are supposed to mask up still, but no one is allowed to inquire about it. Even where I work at Cracker Barrel, masks were still required for employees up until the middle of this last week. Now they are optional—as soon as I found out, I ripped the damn mask from my face and deposited it into the nearest garbage can. Only a select few places, as well as the hospital, still require the masks, but it’s not ubiquitous like it was at the beginning of the year.

Many places are ditching the mask requirements that have been in place for most of the last year

At one point during the height of this pandemic, self-service everything was halted. Self-serve bakery counters were closed off, you could not dispense your own fountain drinks, and you couldn’t even get your own cup—you had to ask someone at the counter to grab one for you, and everything closed early. All 24-hour establishments began closing at asinine times, as early as seven or eight o’clock in the evening. Now, all that nonsense is gone. You can now grab your own donuts at the store bakery, cups are back in their holders at the fountain and some places have resumed 24-hour service. Unfortunately, not even Walmart is back to being open 24 hours. Their operating hours are creeping slowly toward that end, currently open from 0600 – 2300. You still can’t go grocery shopping in the middle of the night, but it’s better than when they closed at 2030.

News graphic from 2020, when Walmart announced reduced operating hours in the initial stages of the pandemic

International travel is, I believe, opening up once again. For the longest time, almost no country allowed American travelers to enter their borders. Many are opening up, although some places are requiring a 14-day quarantine. If a person has been vaccinated, why the necessary quarantine? Oh, are they scared that a vaccinated person will be re-infected? Fine, that might happen, but extremely rarely.

Many people, including the talent themselves, are ecstatic for the return of live events, such as sports, concerts and comedy shows. Everyone was getting stir crazy not being able to perform their talent, or to watch these people do their thing. Strange as it may seem, people were thrilled when Disneyland reopened. Why anyone would be excited to pony up several days’ wages just to enter the park is beyond me. I mean, last I checked Disneyland tickets are something like $110 for anyone over 10 years old. Not counting parking, a family of four will spend over $400 just to walk in the gate. That doesn’t count the $25 or so to park or the overpriced souvenirs and concessions. A family could foreseeably wind up shelling out over $1000 just in a single day’s visit. Thank god my kids were never interested in going there. When we went to California in 2017, my boys wanted to go to Knott’s Berry Farm, and we managed a coupon to get in for $49, as opposed to the $75 normal cost. So four of us entered for roughly $200.

The absurdly exorbitant ticket prices for entry at Disneyland. You practically have to take out a loan or second mortgage to pay for admission

Something that bothers me through all of this is these conspiracy theorists out there who still swear up and down that the corona vaccines contain microchips, or that a “vaccine passport” will be required to be able to travel. Personally, I really don’t care about that. If there’s going to be some “mark of the beast” as claimed in the Bible, it’s not going to be some shot or a 2×3” paper card. There are so many other things to worry about in this life, such as our government trying to micro-manage every aspect of everyone’s lives, or global tensions increasing and boiling over into World War III.

Has anyone else noticed yet another bullshit “coin shortage” coming around? I’ve seen several places now, the latest being Walmart, asking people to pay with cards or exact change, as there is supposedly a coin shortage. Um, there’s no lockdown this year. So far as I know, coin production as back to what it used to be. So, how are we short on coins again? Personally, I think that it’s just a crock of shit. I think it’s just a subtle way of converting people to a cashless society. Imagine if every transaction were electronic. Everything that everyone buys can be traced. With cash, there’s still a smidgeon of anonymity. Using debit or credit cards, someone out there knows exactly what you bought, where you bought it, and the exact time you bought it, down to the second. If some nefarious entity wanted to blackball a person, in the electronic currency world, they would know exactly how to find that person and freeze their account. Boom, no more buying anything. This reminds me of how China has implemented a kind of “social credit score”, whereby someone who does not act according to certain government standards, this score gets dinged, and if it goes low enough, they can’t even so much as take public transit. I’m not sure of all the intricate details, but it certainly brings up haunting images eerily similar to Big Brother in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Though Orwell wrote that book, as well as Animal Farm many years ago, both books seem to be stunningly prophetic, sounding much like the direction society in the 21st Century is headed.

Example of a cover to Orwell’s book 1984, that is eerily prophetic

I’m not against using my debit card for some things, but I really like to have my cash handy. I despise going somewhere and paying for a small purchase with my debit card. If I’m only spending two bucks for something, I would just rather plop down a couple of dollar bills. There are those people who think cash is a waste of time and would much rather not carry any money, relying solely on their debit cards. I’ve handled cash for nearly my whole life, and I really don’t give two fucks about how dirty it is. I’m not going to stick a bill in my mouth that’s been god-knows-where. Gross. When I worked in fast food, I always washed my hands between handling money and touching food. That’s just common sense and hygiene. Sadly, we know how common sense isn’t very much so anymore.

Someone being paid in cash. I’d much rather use cash than debit in most cases. I don’t need my every move and purchase known to the entire world

What do you think? Are you happy to finally remove the mask permanently? Do you plan to get vaccinated? Are you against it? Do you think the “coin shortage” is benign, or a part of the shift to eliminating cash altogether? Feel free to comment!

Thank you for coming along for the ride. I enjoy writing whenever I can. It’s a challenge not to reuse topics where I can avoid it, but challenge accepted. Please enjoy the week. Check in on your loved ones, especially your parents if you’re not estranged. Keep hydrated in the upcoming brutal heat this week, stay in the air conditioning whenever possible. As always, be safe and be well.

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