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Word on the Street: It’s a Whole New World?

Steve Campbell

I’m about to explore a New World. A world post-COVID-19. We’ve all seen our lives change. Suddenly. And for way, way too long.
Most of us have learned some new lessons – lessons which can only be learned through crisis: Wars, Great Depression, loss of friends and family.
I’ll start with a rather weird story, since I’m a rather weird guy, to illustrate how change can be good.

I always hated liver and onions. That’s because my Mom used to cook the crap out of it, and turned it into a charred delight that even ketchup couldn’t save. Not her fault – she came from a generation that was told you had to cook the crap out of meat to kill … well, I’m not sure what. But nobody wanted a tapeworm, so that was pretty much the cuisine of the day.
My lady in my previous relationship loved liver and onions, and declared that it was on the menu for tonight’s supper. I mumbled a weak ‘Yay’, but it was amazing.
I asked her how she did it, but she thought I was being patronizing, and told me to p**s off. But I really meant it.
The point, and I’m sure you missed it, is that I hate change. But when I found something that had changed from a lifetime of what I knew about liver, into something that was actually better than the liver I knew, it totally changed my approach to liver.
I just read that back to myself, and even Socrates couldn’t wade through that, so let me be more pointed.

Everything has changed during our time of self-isolation. The question is: Do we go back, when we can get back, or do we move forward into a new way of doing things?
We have never seen change like this. Most of us reading this have never felt the pain of the Second World War or know what a ration ticket is, or the starvation, depredation and unemployment of the Great Depression.
We have, in fact, been blessed with the greatest offerings we couldn’t have dreamed of 20 years ago. Computers, television, Facebook, Zoom connect us in ways we couldn’t dream of 20 years ago.
We are County, so I know we all miss the things we most cherish as a community – running into each other randomly, and having great back-and-forth conversations. Spontaneously, without expectation of the encounter. Just us, being us.
That will always be the case, no matter how things change. But there are other issues we need to deal with, and coronavirus is opening us up to new challenges, and maybe some better ways to make liver and onions.

I’ve said from the beginning that COVID has brought out the best in people and the worst in people. We have seen both played out, from the hoarding of toilet paper and emptying the shelves of grocery stores to neighbours bringing food to shut-ins, and shout-outs to our Frontline Workers, who have gained a title they have long deserved.
We need to face the coming days with the knowledge that, although we are All Together in this, human behaviour dictates that not everyone is on the same ship we are.

The dangers in this are our next challenge. I’ll break this down point by point.
1) Us and them. This is ugly territory to embrace. The County has been graced with little impact of the coronavirus, during a typical winter-time in which visitors from the cities go home, yet we look at the outside world as a possible virus-bomb eager to cross our borders to engage in their usual seasonal fun.
Though the province has advised vacationers to not visit vacation areas like ours, I know people, and I engage with many tourists in the summer, and they are going to come.

We don’t need to hate them. But we do need to control them. Council backed off on legislation to block visitors to the County, and rightly so. For one thing, it’s unenforcable. For another thing, it paints city people as the aliens in War of the Worlds (are they friendly or are they monsters?) when they are simply people who have loved their County vacations, sometimes for generations.
Controlling the behaviour of our summer visitors is only partly the responsibility of our Council. Bylaws are in place, and fines have been issued. We know the rules – six-foot social distancing, groups under five, masks if you have them. These are also our rules, and we are the ones who need to support them, as the tourists come, and surely they will come.

Bylaws don’t mean much to me, but common sense does. It will be up to us to say: “I’m sorry, you are too close.” To everyone. It doesn’t need to be rude or antagonistic. It’s just part of the New Way.
I know it sounds simplistic, but we are the ones who will protect our territory and, on the upside, bring some revenue into businesses which have had no cash flow since December 27. The businesses, and over 100 of them are my clients, know the rules. Many of them are ordering the floor stickers designating social distancing, and they will likely stay on the floor for quite some time, regardless of what the dreaded virus decides to do.

2) The Stupid will come first. I know this sounds harsh, but we worry about the ‘outsiders’ invading our realm. Many of them, like our long-time cottage owners, know and respect the County rules, and our lifestyle.
But there are people out there who think the government mandates for self-isolation and social distancing are silly, and that the virus does not apply to them. They will be the first people to jump in when we ‘reopen’, so they can go back to work and back to partying.
They are people, just like us, but some more reckless than others. Locals may rightly think the County is somewhat protected from the Real World, compared to Toronto, but this will change when the Real World returns. Then, it will be more important than ever to stay the course, and do business a new way. And stand by the lessons we’ve learned.
We are all in this together. That doesn’t allow us to choose who is ‘in this’ and who is out.

3) The New Workplace. We are learning many new ways to do things. Zoom has reconnected me to my kids and grandkids and my Mom, and we all laugh as hard as we used to do at the Christmas table.
Former travellers to ‘the office’ are finding they can do everything they usually do … at home. Sometimes at 3 am or 8 pm, because that suits them. The ‘grey hairs’ in the companies, as my son Chris calls them, don’t like this.
But the point in work is to get the work done, not to make sure the work is done in a particular building after a two-hour commute.
We’re learning a lot. I’m pretty sure we shouldn’t toss this learning away in an effort to get back to ‘normal’ – things that didn’t work well before.

  • Steve Campbell is editor and publisher of County Magazine, and the author of several books, including The County Handbook: How to Survive in Prince Edward County.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Angela says:

    Nothing is unhealthier than dead.

  2. Fred says:

    As unhealthy as the virus is, locked down at home any longer is significantly unhealthy as well. It is time to relax the measures. This virus is going to be around a long,long time. Perhaps longer than some have left to naturally live.

  3. Angela says:

    Government bowed to public pressure and “opened” provincial parks, trailer parks, and some businesses, and gave the nod to travel. What is point of opening the parks if people cannot camp, picnic and use the beaches or the bathrooms? Why risk the safety of year-round residents many of them elderly to allow an influx of visitors who really have nowhere to go and nothing to do under current restrictions? We have been told that a second wave or an “uptick” is well within the realm of possibility. Supporters of the ‘reopening” of the economy may be singing We are All in This Together, but if COVID-19 numbers start to rise in our community I hope they also know the words to Who’s Sorry Now?”

  4. Dennis Fox says:

    I find what is truly interesting about all the pressure to reopen is that it is being promoted by business and placed largely onto those who have no say – like children. While there is a push to have them return to school in a number of provinces, and school employees have been encouraged to volunteer in long term care homes – I don’t see any politician calling back either Provincial nor Federal Parliaments, nor any municipal council. If it is safe for business and kids – why not our elected leaders? Just sayin!

  5. Chris Keen says:

    “That doesn’t allow us to choose who is ‘in this’ and who is out.” To which I would add EVER.

  6. Liz says:

    “We are all in this together. That doesn’t allow us to choose who is ‘in this’ and who is out.” – well said!

  7. Doris Lane says:

    I hope that everyone residents and visitors will respect the needed safety measures
    We should not breathe on other people or have them breathe on us
    We have very little knowledge on how the virus is spread
    So wear gloves wear a mask
    The drug stores sell 3 masks cheaply
    Everyone can buy them
    We do not know when we are I’ll right away so protect our friends and neighbors as we would have them protect us

  8. Carole Ostrander says:

    Thank you Steve. Right on the money. I would like to compare the County to Newfoundland. They are always happy to have their visitors Enjoy their island. I want to be like them, but in this pandemic, I want them to respect the new normal.

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