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An Epidemic of Inconsistency
We love making exceptions for ourselves - especially during COVID.
I ride the subway to the office every day. In the middle of Covid, I descend into the bowels of New York City and face the boogeymen of 2020: other people. Yet when I started commuting back in September, my biggest fear was not actually Covid: it was telling anyone else.
I was hesitant because anyone who found out had a good chance of finding me reckless and unsafe. Covid has turned us into inconsistent, self-doctoring, and self-rationalized judgers. And who can blame us? We just plain don’t have the endurance necessary to constantly follow the rules. Nor are our brains able to handle the task of constantly finding equivalency between unrelated situations.
Remember the early days when we all became experts at how long a droplet stayed on brass vs. porcelain vs. marble vs. cardboard vs. plastic? That mindset has just transferred over to air circulation and how a sneeze varies from a cough or a yell. Or how the technologies in airplanes are different from a subway. Or if a masked indoors is safer than a maskless outdoors.
There is no Covid playbook for living your entire life. We balance our own priorities with scientific guidelines and adapt to each situation we face.
As a result, we are masters of the self-exception. One friend of mine got back from California and was adamant he couldn’t see me during his two week quarantine. Three days later he called me to hang out because “I’m just tired of quarantining. Also I’m pretty fit so I probably don’t have it right?”
The Holidays will see parents mandating that their homebound kids get tested a week prior, then quarantine, and then rent a car instead of getting on the train - anything to keep away Corona. Except for that one child who lives across the country - he’s flying in the day before Thanksgiving. “What, we were just supposed to let your brother miss Thanksgiving?”
No matter what life any of us is living, we have found a way to justify it. And when we deviate from whatever standards we’ve laid out for ourselves, we can say that we deviated the safe way. But whenever someone else deviates, odds are we feel they are doing it wrong.
So even when I’m getting judged for my own activity, I’m turning around and finding a victim for myself. I ride the subway every day, I’ve flown on a plane to and from Utah, I’ve eaten indoors at restaurants, and I’ve even started going back to the gym. However, find me one person on that subway that has their mask below their nose, and I will scoff and change cars immediately. How completely reckless.