Identifier is exactly HST634
2020-03-25Class assignment for Arizona State University, HST 643, and Sensory History
2022-05-25Listening to Marketplace on the radio each morning as I arrived at work in mid-January of 2020, I never suspected that what was forcing cancelations of Lunar New Year celebrations in China would leave me with raw hands and ringing ears. At that time, I was working at the Census Bureau for the lead person responsible for on-the-ground execution of the 2020 census in Idaho. The work involved data analysis and strategic planning, as we created and staffed a field operation to complement the Census Bureau’s attempt to transition from the traditional door-to-door canvassing to online self-reporting. In the early days of the pandemic, we tried to maintain business as usual as we, and most of the country, watched cases rise. When things got bad enough, a mandate from Washington shut down our office for nearly six weeks. When our team was called back, we entered a totally new world. The Census Bureau leadership had mandated a hyper safe work environment and work rules. The office furniture was completely rearranged to create social distance. A six-foot perimeter around every desk was marked on the floor to ensure work interactions took place at a distance. Similarly, walking paths were marked on the floor and one-way traffic was encouraged. Everyone was issued a box of masks and hand sanitizers and soap dispensers were everywhere. The visual was pretty laughable but it is my hands and ears that carry the strongest memories of attempting to work in this environment. Trying to comply with the guidelines meant more hand washing and sanitizing than one would likely see around an operating room. The government, while trying to be a really good parent, however, had failed to supply hand lotion. Shame on me! I didn’t bring my own and raw, chapped hands became my red badge of courage, and compliance. Additionally, I will never forget the volume in that concrete block room. A room full of people on the phone can be noisy; but social distanced work conversations meant masked people shouting to co-workers as they stood six feet from their desk. It was the definition of cacophony. The work I was doing required a lot of attention to detail and I remember it being so loud at times I could not think clearly. There were time I would go outside to listen to quiet of the traffic on the busy street in front of the office.
2020-05-05When the COVID-19 virus struck in the spring of 2020, I was still completing my undergraduate degree in history at a small university near the border of North and South Carolina. My university transitioned to online learning around the second week of March. One of my classes that semester was an upper level special topics course on Public History. Seizing the opportunity to document the COVID-19 pandemic for future generations, my course instructor had students to document and journal about our everyday lives in quarantine during the second half of the course as we transitioned online. The above is a video I took for that course of some my friends from back home, where I had returned to live in isolation with my mother, father, brothers, and grandfather; while at home, I would drive about once a week to an empty target parking lot to socialize with some of my friends from the community. We would sit in our cars, spaced at least fifteen feet apart, in order to avoid spreading the virus. Though I was thankful for the opportunity to still see my friends, and to have at least one social outing each week, the sense, or rather lack of sense, that was most prevalent in my mind, and still is when recalling the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in the spring of 2020, is not being able to touch my friends. I am a very tactile person, and giving a hug or a handshake to my friends is an important part of expressing my love and feelings for others. Though during the COVID-19 pandemic we were able to communicate by means of modern day technology, such as zoom, and even in cases such as mine due to the state where I lived, still being able to socialize in outdoor areas, the fear of the virus prevented me from being able to express friendship in one of the most natural ways. Though only ten to fifteen feet apart, it was if we had all created an invisible bubble that could not penetrated. Though this was all for good reason, it did not make the psychological implications any less real. The ten feet that separated me from my friends for over two months felt like ten million miles, and my thoughts constantly played tricks on me. I grew accustomed to not touching or being near others. It was in early May, almost two months after returning home from college, that I touched someone outside of my family unit for the first time. A friend of mine who I went to high school with, who also worked on a farm that borders my family's farm, wanted to ride ATV's together. I agreed, and we remained at least six feet distant from one another. We it came time for him to return home, however, he extended his hand to give me a "fist bump." Normally, he probably would have tried to hug me, but even the notion of touching our fists together made me hesitant, though I did return the friendly gesture. The virus had me, and most of society, programmed to remain enclosed to ourselves, and in doing so, though necessary for a time, unable to engage in the most basic of human interactions. Prior to the pandemic, I never had give thought to the importance of touching in my relationships, however, in a post-pandemic world, I will never take for granted the most basic of human interactions, such as touch, because in a moment it could be gone.