Can you hear me now? How about now?

It’s been 202 days since the start of some version of lockdown in Alberta due to the COVID19 pandemic. That’s 28 weeks and 6 days, or 4848 hours, or 290,880 minutes.

That’s 55.19% of 2020.

This may have become your new normal. Or you exist in (completely understandable) perpetual panic (1). Perhaps, like me, you’re secretly enjoying the stretchy pants but starting (ha!) to loathe your roommates. You might have embraced a new hobby—I’m on my 19th shitty crochet hat!

As a new member of the MRFA Communications Committee, I was sent on assignment to discover what our fellow colleagues are doing to stay socially connected with one another during these trying times.

My plan was to attend the September outdoor, distanced social. But my brain wouldn’t let me go choosing, instead, to self-care with episodes of Ted Lasso.

But, no worries, I had an invite to the first instalment of a colleague’s distanced-wine social—the perfect opportunity for lubricated honesty. Also, didn’t go. I was in hour 15 of what could have been our deadly pandemic but, luckily, just mild food poisoning. 

After recovering enough to sit upright, and missing some select MRU peeps, I scheduled an online Feminist TEA; cancelled, almost immediately, by some panic-inducing family news. 

I had one more chance—the second wine social! All crisis had been handled. I was ready to drink wine at a distance! But, as the afternoon moved towards supper, the email cancellations trickled in: Deadline; Deadline; Exhaustion; Spouse working overtime; Netflix. We’ll try again in October.

That’s my experience with a social (distant) MRU. Plenty of good will, terrible execution, and yet another lesson learned due to COVID (2). While dedicated social interactions have been a complete bust, I’ve experienced much joy each time I see some of your faces in meetings, Instagram posts, and Twitter profiles. Even Faculty Council is more palatable with the sight of missed-colleagues’ faces. 

I do miss those parts of MRU that are hard to replicate during a pandemic: momentary chat-stops in the hall, gossip in the copy room, unexpected snail-mail, a meeting scheduled in Riddell. 

But I haven’t succeeded in finding online equivalents because, right now, balance is a party line, and other people feel like work even when they’re much-needed change and support.  

We will meet again in person someday.  Until then…panic (3).

By Milena Radzikowska

5 October 2020

(1) “‘Pandemic’  combines the Greek prefix ‘pan-‘ meaning ‘all’ with the root ‘demos’ meaning ‘people,’ to describe a global contagion. ‘Panic,’ meanwhile, owes its roots to Pan, the Greek god of nature, associated in the public imagination with wild merrymaking, not cowering in fear.” Thanks, Ben Zimmer (March 12, 2020).

(2) Perhaps your experience with the COVID social space has been different—DM me on FaceBook or Twitter and tell your story

(3) You know, like Pan did.