The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the simplistic disruptive reality of our normal routine habits of comfort and certainty with an earth-shifting wave of changes that have created an undeniable “new normal.”
We often take normal for granted and find comfort in the routines we establish around normalcy and in knowing, with a calculated degree of certainty, what comes next. Routine hugs and kisses, stops at the corner bar after work, handshakes, sold-out concerts, and church gatherings were once normal. These were some of the small things we took for granted and never really put much thought into having to do without.
Minor inconveniences used to garner our biggest complaints about normal working conditions and the irritating disruptions of our normal lives but now an undeniable “new normal” has taken over and replaced that which we once normalized in deed and habit. Social distancing, COVID vaccinations, face masks or no face mask have now become the new normal and questions we must ask or at least consider asking for the foreseeable future. Getting back to the old normal has been our strongest of basic human desires and natural instincts, but our lives have been forever altered with only past remnants of our memories of how normal used to be. Normal kept us vigilant and hopeful in our collective instincts to keep our lives moving forward.
The tragic loss of millions of lives and, for example, our own inability to attend sacred farewell celebrations of the funerals of those we personally knew and loved is a stark example of the tragedy of the new normal. Virtual relationships and Zoom meetings have unfortunately become the new normal diminishing the importance of personal interaction and the direct shared human emotional contact that make us the humans, good or bad, that we are. As necessary as it may be, electronic filings and online jury trials or just saying hello to someone in the chat room without an in-person smile attached somehow diminishes the normal human connection and gravity of the matter.
The new normal does, however, allow me to sleep late and make appearances without a dress code that requires me to wear a suit and tie. But it doesn’t allow me to evaluate a judge’s posture on issues by studying his or her facial reactions. My grandmother would say that, “A facial expression speaks a thousand words. When you look at someone in their face you get an instant reflection of yourself and critical feedback as to whether there was at least a human interactive connection with that person.” (My grandmother was smarter than me and closer to God (older than me), so my preference for face-to-face interaction comes from a credible, undeniable, incontrovertible source.) Reading the judge and my grandmother’s face were critical factors in winning any debate or argument.
So my personal advice is to forget about the nostalgia of getting back to normal and to embrace the reality that our future rests in a new normal and our abilities to adjust and embrace it. Even with the adjustments and inconveniences of our current reality, I am nevertheless thankful and mindful that there are many others not here, unfortunately, to celebrate with us the enjoyment and challenges of our new normal.
» Cite this article: 94 Wis. Law. 72 (July/Aug 2021).
Meet Our Contributors
What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever taken?
Traveling has allowed me to see many different things and experience many different places. For many years, as a little boy, I traveled every summer by train and sometimes with my family by car to Mississippi to visit relatives and immerse myself in the wonders of country life. It’s hard to beat being close to and living off the treasures of the land.
Having established my own family, I owned an orange 1973 Volkswagen camper van (18 years) that took my wife and me on ventures around the country. My children got to see both oceans and the many deserts, mountains, and rivers in between. There is nothing like the awe of counting shooting stars on a mountain top next to a raging river.
But, in retrospect, my most venturesome travel was to Russia in the fall of 1991. It was right after the failed coup attempt with fresh vestiges of anarchy mingled among the historic and beautiful reminders of history past. I was part of a group of five American professors and 30 spoiled American students who did not necessarily appreciate the bone-chilling cold and second-class Russian lifestyles. I attended a two-week international leadership conference in Moscow and, after an overnight train ride, St. Petersburg.
Having visited Moscow State University, the Winter Palace, Stalin’s residence, Red Square, and many other historical cultural sites, I was awed by the Russian history reflected in the extravagance of the czars and the toll that countless wars and domestic strife had taken on their modern history. I did not realize, until I returned to America, the peril of being in Russia during that particular time. But nevertheless it was one of the most in-depth and enjoyable trips of my life.
Nothing beats counting stars on the top of a mountain with your family, but an adventure of a lifetime is just too hard to beat.
Roy B. Evans, Roy B. Evans Attorney at Law, Milwaukee
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