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OpinionColumnistsMichael Dobie

The way we were before COVID-19

People wearing masks wait in line to enter

People wearing masks wait in line to enter Home Depot in Riverhead on April 17, 2020. Credit: Randee Daddona

In BC time, I didn’t grasp the significance of the seemingly banal exchange of words: How are you? I’m doing well. How are you?

In BC time, I never thought I would hear any discussion, even in derision or disbelief, of curing a virus by ingesting or injecting syringes of Lysol, anywhere but on a comedy stage.

In BC time, I didn’t realize how easy it is to conserve toilet paper.

In BC time, I never knew the visceral thrill of getting a grocery delivery on my doorstep.

In BC time, words and phrases like “hydroxychloroquine” and “pandemic” and “flatten the curve” and “asymptomatic” were never part of everyday conversation, and Zoom was not spelled with a capital Z.

In BC time, I underestimated the therapeutic value of a hug, and how much I would miss being able to give and get one.

In BC time, I never saw such open warfare between politics and science, and never expected that science would have such a struggle in a battle it should easily be winning.

In BC time, I had forgotten the way a crisis ennobles some people and diminishes others, and how it’s one’s own actions that determine whether that happens, and how inspiring or demoralizing that is when it’s your leaders who are growing or shrinking.

In BC time, I never knew how many people on Long Island owned dogs, how many different kinds of dogs there are, and how every dog that goes past my house stops to smell the same place next to the hedges.

In BC time, I never appreciated the freedom we have to basically go anywhere we want, whenever we want, with whomever we want, to do whatever we want, for however long we want, with however many people we want.

In BC time, I never expected to see the living rooms, dens and kitchens of so many musicians, singers, actors, actresses, talk show hosts, politicians, commentators, and just plain folks.

In BC time, I never saw so many people out walking in my neighborhood, and never knew I had that many neighbors.

In BC time, I never expected to see the air get so much cleaner so quickly, and wince at the cost and the reason why.

In BC time, I never expected the idea of American exceptionalism to be so completely validated and thoroughly debunked at the same time by very different groups of people.

In BC time, I never would have thought I would go six weeks and counting without putting any gas in the car.

In BC time, I never stared at my lengthening hair in the mirror and contemplated what I might look like sporting my old ‘70s ponytail again.

In BC time, I never wondered whether we’d be celebrating the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays, only how many people would be there.

In BC time, I never expected to see caravans of cars with friends and families saluting big occasions and teachers applauding distance-learning students.

In BC time, I never expected we’d be judging people based on how far they stood apart from each other and whether or not they were wearing masks.

In BC time, I took BC time too much for granted, and now realize that we can’t go back to BC time because there’s so much we have to change.

In BC time, I never even heard of Wuhan.

Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday's editorial board.