Bob McKinney

As I file this column on Friday, I’m looking ahead to two social activities over the weekend. To say the least, that’s a departure from the norm of these past 13 months.

I expect to be exhausted by Sunday night.

With the majority of our friends now having been vaccinated, my social director (aka my wife) has decided we are free to interact with folks in person while continuing to exercise caution. As a courtesy to others, we will still wear masks in most indoor public spaces. Also, we won’t be “close talkers.” 

(For those who never watched Seinfeld, close talkers invade personal space as they speak to others, hovering nearer to them than necessary. One of the good things to come from the pandemic is the lessening of this type of oral communication).

I’ll shake hands if that is someone’s preferred greeting, although I’ve become pretty good at fist and elbow bumps. I’m plus or minus on hugging, but again, if that’s someone’s preference, we can bring it in without objection from me.  

Last year when the “safer at home” practices started, I joined all the other introverts jokingly (kind of) saying I had been preparing for it my entire life.

Stay at my residence for days at a time? Are you kidding me? As long as I have food, something to read and the occasional TV binge, I know I’ll be fine. 

Grocery stores and restaurants will deliver? Sign me up.

Work from home? I’m in. (Although, as one of my friends quipped, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish working at home from living at work).

Sunday morning church on the computer or TV screen? Probably not the “assembling together” the writer of the Book of Hebrews had in mind, but I suppose I can center my mind for worship on my sectional sofa as well as a pew.

To be sure, I experienced some angst in those early days last spring when we were not seeing family. But once we expanded our bubble to include them, life improved. I have established a routine that, I’ll confess, might be hard to give up.

Unlike many of my colleagues, I have not grown a COVID beard (you’re welcome, anyone who sees me), but I’ve most assuredly given up daily shaving. And speaking of positives, I just filled up my car for the first time in nearly four weeks.

As for clothes, let’s just say I’ve not been supporting my local or online retailers in that department. I can throw on a button-down and take off my baseball cap for a video meeting if appropriate, but there’s no doubt I’m going for comfort these days.

But as much as I might have become comfortable with semi-isolation, it’s time to get back out there. In doing so, I will need to overcome some mild FOGO – fear of going out. According to an article I read from a Canadian news source, it really is a thing, akin to – but different from – FOMO, the fear of missing out.

According to the counselor quoted in the story, true FOGO is a sub-clinical form of agoraphobia, in which people avoid situations due to fear of having a panic attack or other anxiety-related feelings.

In all seriousness, I understand that is a real condition, something I would never make light of. I am grateful I don’t have to deal with anything of the sort.

My “condition,” if you want to call it that, is more attuned to one who has become set in his ways, which might also be defined, as much I hate to admit it, as grumpy. At the thought of shaving, putting on non-wrinkled clothes and driving somewhere to have dinner with people, I will not experience anything similar to a panic attack or clinical anxiety.

But if I am honest with myself, I know when I play out that scenario in my mind against the one in which I stay home with a stubble, wear sweatpants and eat food that has been delivered to my door or lovingly prepared by my spouse, it is a close call.

Thankfully, that spouse will help make such decisions. And with her, there is no decision to make. We’re leaving the nest.

You all know my disdain for buzz words and phrases. I am not about to acknowledge or embrace a “new normal.”

But please be patient with me if returning to the old normal takes some time.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].

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