Once we can come and go more freely, will people gather the way they did before COVID? (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner file photo)

Once we can come and go more freely, will people gather the way they did before COVID? (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner file photo)

What happens when the pandemic is over?

After experiencing initial excitement, I wonder just how much I’ll go out


My oral hygiene has gotten spectacular during this pandemic. At this point I’m brushing my teeth two to three times a day and flossing and using mouthwash nearly every night. My dentist should give me a gold star and an extra tube of mini toothpaste as a reward next time I see her.

It’s not like my oral habits were awful beforehand. I usually brushed twice a day, but like so many things over the past year, my rhythms and habits have changed.

I’m asleep most evenings before midnight. I rarely eat out and don’t often order in. I sometimes go days without leaving the house. I usually only drink once a week and it’s primarily outdoor, weekend day drinking. I sing weird songs to myself about the food in the fridge…OK, that part isn’t new.

I actually worked from home in the before times, but as a counterbalance to keep me sane, I went out three to four nights a week. From art shows at 111 Minna to concerts at Bottom of the Hill to talking s—- with old rummies at Specs, there was always something to do (hell, sometimes I did all of it in one night). And along with that came eating at late-night spots like Taqueria Cancun, having at least a few drinks each night I was out, and staying up until 1 or 2 a.m. As Dr. Cho can attest, I definitely wasn’t flossing every night.

Now as we approach the point when I’ll be fully vaccinated (I’m looking at you mid-May), and the June 15 timeline of California completely opening back up, I’m starting to wonder how much I’ll go back to my previous ways.

I mean, right now, I want it all. I want a hedonistic frenzy of dive bar carousing and after-hours warehouse parties. I want a good excuse to stay up til sunrise and then spend the next two days eating Little Star Pizza in bed while binging “Law & Order: SVU.” I want house parties, lots of them. I want to dance to music I previously wouldn’t have tolerated, just because I can rave my face off again. At this point, I would literally shake my ass to terrible top 40 songs at Ruby Skye if that godforsaken thing still existed, and I hated that place.

But after that, once I get the initial excitement out of my system. I wonder just how much I’ll go out.

I’ve always been a pretty big extravert, as I’ve gotten older though, it’s definitely diminished a bit. And I’ve noticed since the semi-isolation induced by the pandemic, that it’s doing more so.

Like these days, when I’m walking down the street and I recognize someone, despite their mask, I’m far less likely to stop and chat with them. It’s not necessarily social anxiety as much as it just seems like it will be exhausting figuring out how to do small talk again. I used to be really good at small talk, but even that can get rusty after a year and change of a pandemic.

There’s been a ton of talk and zillions of articles about the ways the pandemic has impacted people’s lives. Rates of depression are skyrocketing, sex lives of both single and married people are devastated, survivor’s guilt is abundant, alcohol consumption is way up, and yes, some people have begun using mouthwash before bed.

But I’m curious to see how much all of this sticks with us when world goes back to normal-ish. You know how when they cut down ancient trees and scientists can tell when a traumatic ecological disaster happened on earth by reading the lines within the trunk? We will all have the human equivalent of those lines from this pandemic.

What scars will be permanent and which ones will heal? Which of the things that we thought were core tenets of who we are, will be forever altered by this trauma? Will you come out of this an introvert? Will you come out of it a drunk? Will you come out of it newly single? Will you get married to the roommate you’ve been banging this whole time?

At some point in February or March of 2020 the entire world suddenly had to answer “What do we do when the unthinkable happens?” and now for the first time, we have to ask ourselves, “Well, what happens after that?”

It looks like we’re about to find out.

Stuart Schuffman is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com and join his mailing list at http://bit.ly/BrokeAssList. He is a guest columnist and his point of view is not necessarily that of the Examiner.

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