The Pandemic’s Greatest Revelation

By Scott Westerman (Audio)

In the silence of isolation, sensations emerge from the pre-pandemic noise. They speak with enlightening clarity. What I miss most are the little things.

As we slowly re-engage in an interactive world, what we see, hear and smell attack our senses.

During lockdown, the continual office interruptions evaporate. There is no jostling proximity of people unaware or uncaring about the human lives around them. I didn’t miss these things.

As the year progressed, I longed for the smiles that cleaved our faces upon recognizing a friend across a crowded room, the reflexive, magnetic embraces, the power telegraphed in a firm handshake, the smell of freshly brushed teeth and carefully deployed grooming that told the story of what personal brand we want the world to see.

In a zoom world, what’s outside of the camera’s eye doesn’t matter. I wear collared shirts and make sure my hair, such as it is, reflects preparation for the work at hand. Below the shot are the stale sweatpants and the once-upon-a-time white socks I wear to bed. The microphone doesn’t pick up yesterday’s garlic on my breath and noses can’t detect the inevitability of an oncoming shower. A green screen projects a video loop of a perfectly organized office, with the calming lap of gentle ocean waves outside of open French doors, not the disheveled pile of disorder that is more indicative of my true state of mind. I’ll probably keep up that appearance.

When we venture out, masked faces expose tantalizing whispers of the stories hidden behind the eyes. The inability to incorporate lip-reading into functional communication sharpens ears to the nuance in a voice.

Circumstance makes us to pay attention to the little things; the cues which unveil deeper layers of meaning and can give us a clearer path toward understanding.

I hope these amplified receptors don’t diminish as we return to the maelstrom of circulation. Pandemic has forced many of us to slow down, to smell the roses in the rare moments when we risk entering an infected world to ponder them.

Applying that same appreciation to others can be mutually transformative.