Author’s note: This column tries to find the lighter side of COVID-19. It is not meant, in any way, to minimize the seriousness or devastation caused by this horrific virus.

But I also feel like we have to hang onto the little things that keep us sane these days. When things are so out of control and you’ve just slogged through the epic mudslide disaster that has been 2020, the only thing that might keep us afloat is the ability to smile, nod our heads in a moment of shared humanity and tell ourselves: “This too shall pass.”

It may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.

We’ve all seen the lists. You know you grew up in the ‘70s if … you begged your mom for jeans with embroidered pockets, a Shaun Cassidy T-shirt and Candies sandals. You know you’re from a Class B school if … you were friends with kids from other towns — until basketball season started. You know you’re from North Dakota if 20 below means you finally put on a jacket.

It got me thinking about all the shared quirks and behaviors that we humans have developed to cope with COVID-19. A year ago, we would have never thought we’d find ourselves quarantining our groceries as if they were radioactive or buying sanitizer to sanitize the bottle of hand sanitizer.

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Yet here we are, doing all those things. So here goes: You know you lived in the age of COVID-19 if:

  • You spend a lot of time waving at complete strangers because you can’t really accurately identify anyone without their mask on.
  • You are so overdue for a haircut that you have taken to wearing everything from do-rags to stocking caps to top hats to cover the follicular anarchy. If you happen to have curly hair, your hair has grown too wide to be confined within the frames of your video during Zoom meetings.
  • You have given yourself at least one second-degree burn from trying to wax your own lip and chin. Now you’ve given up on that formality completely and basically look like a female Jerry Garcia. (Ahem. This may have actually happened to, erm, someone I know quite well.)
  • You’ve gone out so little in the last few months that, when you get in your car and start tooling around, you feel like you’ve forgotten how to drive.
  • You get so excited when you get to go out on an adventure (i.e., wax ring for a new toilet) that you wind up talking to everyone in the store and spending $300 on “As Seen on TV” items and a 6-gallon can of Menards-brand queso dip.
  • You have eaten approximately 7,000 Ferrero Roche candies in the last five months.
  • You initially saved so much money in gas and eating out, yet your bank account is nearly empty because you’re buying way more cigarettes, CBD gummies, vodka and impulse items from late-night QVC.
  • You’ve never heard of quercetin before, but you know YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE IT!
  • You have resorted to wearing Crocs, stained sweatpants and a Sinbad T-shirt full time.
  • You have bought a puppy.
  • Your young child has never experienced an in-person celebration, and thinks all birthdays and graduations are traditionally celebrated with people driving by, waving and honking.
  • You have used COVID as an excuse to get out of something at least once.
  • You spend a lot of time judging. Why are those two people standing so close when they talk? Why is that know-it-all wearing a mask? Why aren’t people staying home (said as you back out of your own driveway for an emergency visit to Menards to buy one bolt)?
  • You occasionally look around at all the masked people around you and wonder if this is actually a sci-fi movie.
  • You bake a lot more “for the kids,” but often find yourself huddled over the sink at 11 p.m., cramming a S’morearoo sandwich (s’more between two Scotcheroos) in your mouth.
  • In the first phase of the pandemic, you lost weight because you were walking the dog five times a day and no longer drinking sugary drive-thru lattes. Now you’ve gained all that weight back because you invented the S’morearoo sandwich.
  • You sometimes have to sit back and think: “When was the last time I showered?”
  • You talk longingly to your friends (not in person, of course) about all the thrilling things you did “before.”
  • You’ve watched every movie on Netflix. Twice.
  • You get a little sad when you see the yellowing hearts in the windows, because it reminds you of early-stage pandemic, when everyone was hopeful and people weren’t fighting.
  • You haven’t been able to buy a Lysol Wipe since April.
  • You wish you had trademarked the phrases, “this uncertain time,” “stay well,” and “the new normal,” so you could receive royalties every time they’re used.
  • Every single cough and sniffle has you convinced you’ve got COVID.
  • After years of bragging about being a Luddite, you can now share your screen on Teams, orchestrate elaborate game nights on Houseparty and use your cellphone to launch satellites into space.

Stay well amid this uncertain time, my friends. Welcome to the new normal.

Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at tswiftsletten@gmail.com.