It's the calendar that sticks in my mind.
We’re back face to face at Home Campus now, almost completely, after a year and a half of working mostly (and in my case almost entirely) remotely. I went back to my office last week to bring the files I’d taken home last March, back when I thought this would be resolved in a few months, and I dumped them on my desk for future sorting. I’d cleaned up the place when I came in for the files back then – there were no derelict mugs or moldy snacks, no half-remembered things I’d been looking for at home without success. Just papers and office supplies, as always.
But the calendar on the wall still read March 2020.
It felt like I was an archeologist, exploring the ruins of a lost civilization and waiting for the boulder to come rolling out of some secret opening in a file cabinet to crush me for my impertinence in disturbing the ancient site. All I needed is a nice hat and a bull whip to make the feeling complete.
I mean, we already have Nazis openly roaming the streets of the country these days. How far away can Indiana Jones be?
It’s a strange thing to see that calendar, to put my mind back into the eerie last days before the pandemic struck the US for real. I remember thinking a couple of days before it all came crashing down that the day felt like the Before picture in some future textbook, that there would soon be a divide in time and whatever came next would be After, a different place.
In some ways it is.
But in other ways it’s more of the same. The students are still vaguely lost, looking for rooms that will become second nature to them in a few weeks. The building is a bit more spread out with the furnishings to encourage social distancing but even that not so much as it was a year ago. The classrooms are back to being classrooms instead of wifi hotspots for Zoom classes.
Everyone is wearing masks, though. Home Campus has a mask mandate for everyone, vaccinated or not, which is smart policy in the time of the Delta variant. So far compliance has been universal, which gives me hope for the future. I live in a state that hasn’t lost its goddamned mind like so many of the ones in the old Confederacy or the new one. People here understand that science is real and the virus doesn’t care about your politics, or at least they understand that the university has the authority to set rules for public safety and you are free not to attend if those rules bother you. Either way the result is the same, so that’s good.
I've cleared away the files and straightened out my desk, but I haven’t taken the calendar down yet. I’m not sure why. It just sits there, a brightly colored monument to a faded past of not that long ago, really.