I did something reckless.
I took a weekend trip to Calgary.
Even now, I am shame-writing my regular column from cowtown Canada, relishing in the rainy weather (send some of that over B.C.’s way, would ya?) and relaxing at my parents’ house.
You might be wondering: is that reckless?
Already we’ve had tons of people intermingling across our provincial borders this summer, flooding the ferries and hitting up places like Stampede (god knows why; corndogs and dippin’ dots are hardly authentic. If you want to live like a real cowboy, just head out into the prairie and quietly freeze to death).
Our two provincial governments have both widely lifted restrictions, approving events, restaurants, and more.
So is it REALLY that bad for me, a guy who has not left Victoria in two years and has a very tiny circle of social contacts, who went for a COVID test (it was negative) the second I felt any symptoms and is double-vaccinated, to take a small trip to Calgary?
I would argue…yeah, a little bit.
The thing is, we speak about these personal indulgences in pretty absolutist terms. It’s either yer fer it yer agin it, you absolute angel / supreme satanist. But I think it’s healthier, and probably more productive, to realize that every action we take in the midst of a global pandemic can carry SOME risk.
I’m not trying to raise the hackles of the “media = fear” mob when I say that. I’m trying to illustrate that for my purpose, I have accepted a risk, but I’m also furthering a broader risk around me. It may be small, but the onus is on me, therefore, to limit that risk as much as possible. And to weigh that against personal, selfish reasons.
When it comes to limiting risk, I’ve obviously followed the still-existing mask rules for planes. Kept my mask on all through both airports and the flight itself. As I’ve said, I’m double-vaccinated. And I’m only seeing a few people.
But there is still risk. I could pick up the virus from some other, less prudent person. I could in turn carry that risk to my people, who I will mention now, includes my father, who is turning 70 this weekend.
I bring up my father because it neatly pivots me to those personal reasons for travel. Weighing that risk against my father’s 70th, you might think “well come on now, he’s going to have many more birthdays.” And yah, that’s probably true. But this visit also comes amidst him suffering some recent health issues, which put a tiny bit of alarm and urgency into seeing him.
Ironically, this does also mean there’s an increased risk to seeing him during COVID. But, assessing those possibilities, mitigating my risk, working FOR this trip instead of just DEMANDING my right to it…I’m here now.
It may seem unfair to view all of our actions in this time in that kind of weighty responsibility. But that’s what living in a free society is.
I feel like it wasn’t so long ago that we understood that. When we had an awareness of the people and the society around us, and realized we were responsible for weighing our selfish desires and wants against the risk that can bring to others.
Kind of like understanding that you may WANT a campfire, but maybe you SHOULDN’T when the province has plenty of conflagrations to go around.
So like it or not, while I may be doing what I can to limit my risk, I also have to accept the responsibility that I have added to a broader global risk, even if it’s just a tiny amount. I think the counterbalance to that is that I owe it to the people around me to support mitigation of broader harm.
Maybe that means turning down later trips while COVID continues to rage. Maybe that means helping out with volunteer firefighting, or helping at a clinic. I don’t think it’s a quantifiable thing. But what matters is that I carry that weight, think about it maturely, and don’t just expect everyone else to fold around me like daisies.
We hear about “long haul COVID” as a horrifying potential effect of contracting the virus. But I think there’s another kind of long haul: carrying the collective responsibility of living in a global society with huge issues.
I’m back on Sunday. The airline doesn’t have a check-in for emotional baggage. That’s on me.
I’ll carry it and sort it for the good of the people around me.
I’m in it for the long haul.