Restless in the time of COVID-19

I am sorry that I have been quiet, but I have somewhat overburdened with work. Denmark has gone into lock-down again, which means that there are a lot of companies that are entitled to compensation, as soon as the politicians hammer out the details (often while going through an approval process in the EU, ensuring that no countries sneak in illegal subsidies disguised as Corona relief. The involvement of politicians and the EU makes developing and supporting the compensation systems a bit of a moving target.

But enough about my work.

Or rather, instead of talking about my work, let me make clear how privileged I have been, having had work through both the lock-down starting in March, and now this current lock-down. What’s more, due to the extreme time pressure and ever-changing nature of the demands, I have had to go to work every day, meeting up with a core group of people, working on clearing the path for the developers of the systems (most of developers work from home).

This is probably what has kept me stable.

I am an extrovert, probably even an extreme extrovert. Social contact means a lot to me. If I hadn’t had regular contact with other people, I would almost certainly have sunk into something akin to depression, or at least have gotten stressed.

Going to work, instead of working from home, means that I have to be more careful about social contact outside work, than I would have been if I worked from home. Now, I am not only risking my health, but also the health of everyone working together with me.

As not only an extrovert, but quite a social person, it obviously pains me to not be able to see my friends. This is however a price I have to pay, and one that I think everyone in a position similar to mine (working with other people, living with at-risk people etc) should be willing to pay. The stop of the spread of Corona starts “at home”, and we all have to do our part.

This also means getting tested if we have been at risk at being exposed. In Denmark there is a track-and-trace app based on Bluetooth, which tells you if you have been close to someone who afterwards reported that they had gotten infected. This app is quite sensitive, and since Bluetooth can’t control for all the other factors for whether you have been at risk for exposure. Nevertheless, I have taken any warning I have gotten from it quite seriously, and Friday I went and had my 9th COVID-19 test, after having been told by the app that I had been exposed to a risk of infection. I am still waiting for the results, but given that I have no symptoms and I haven’t heard that anyone, that I have actually spent time, is infected, I am expecting the test to be negative as were all the tests before it.

In usual times, I spend a fairly large part of my spare time socializing and traveling, both things which I can’t really do at the moment. I have been to short trips to Vienna, Austria and Rome, Italy this year, but this is nothing like what I had planned, or what I normally travel in a year.

The lack of socializing and traveling makes me restless, and makes me miss the social aspects of the internet 20 years ago, where I used to hang out on chat boards, discussion forums, and blog comment sections. These communities don’t seem to exist the same ways as they used to. Now, there are Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Discord, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with these things, I am not part of any communities there, like I used to be in e.g, the Mercedes Lackey Mailing List, Salon’s Table Talk, The Doonesbury Town Halls, Readerville, the comments at the blogs over at ScienceBlogs etc. Even places I used for social purposes a decade ago, e.g. Twitter, has become much less so now, as the medium has grown, and becomes such a hose of information.

I know this sounds like an old man complaining about change, but I quite understand that a lot of things are pretty similar to back then, I am just the one who hasn’t followed along. Until earlier this year, I hadn’t even looked at Discord, even though it is a major networking/community tool for a lot of people. I just miss the comfort of the past, obviously ignoring all the bad parts from back then.

Even after apparently becoming a bit of a Luddite on the internet, I have still managed to keep some contact with friends and family around the world, even making some new friends along the way.

This is part of what makes it possible to keep my restlessness in bay. Knowing that it is still possible to socialize and make friends around the world. It also gives me something to look forward to: being able to meet my friends (new and old) when we can travel again.

Because we will be able to traveling again. And socialize.

We just have to be patient for a little longer – the vaccines are here, but they need to be produced and distributed in large enough numbers. As someone said, it is not the vaccines that stop the pandemic, but the vaccinations. And that’s the stage where we are now. Vaccinations have begun, with the most vulnerable and exposed people getting them first, as is entirely proper.

Later the rest of us will get the chance. When enough have, we can normalize things. Things will probably not go entirely back to normal – I can easily see a situation where proof of vaccination/negative test is required for traveling and for participating in sporting events, festivals and other places where a lot of people are gathered.

When it is possible to socialize again, I will be throwing a party, inviting all my friends, and then start planning my travels.

Until this happens, I will stay restless, getting tested occasionally, and spending all too much time on work.