I recently got home from the grocery store and felt the familiar urge to wash my hands after unpacking the groceries.
I think the powers that be long ago decided I wasn’t likely to get the coronavirus that way, but you know how the saying goes, better safe than sorry.
But this time, I didn’t wash my hands. I’m not saying that was the best choice, but it’s a choice I felt free to make since achieving fully vaccinated status.
I feel free to skip the hand sanitizer after filling up at the pump — assuming I could fill up at the pump in the middle of this panic-induced shortage.
I feel free to leave my mask in the car when I go into the office.
I feel free to walk around with others not wearing masks.
I feel free.
The politicians have called this vaccine our ticket back to normal.
Sitting at a table at a banquet feels strangely normal, which is perhaps an oxymoron. I’m still not quite used to seeing people shake hands.
Normal is coming to work at the office, running into friends at an event, buying concert tickets.
This vaccine feels to me more like a ticket to freedom.
Normal may not be going to the office every day like before. Freedom is choosing to go in, walking into a co-worker’s office to chat or distracting someone at their cubicle with conversation.
Normal may not be running into a friend at the occasional event. It might be going to all of the events to see all the friends, at least for a little while. Freedom is choosing just how social I want to be and with whom I spend my time.
Normally buying concert tickets is an exercise in frugally choosing the best not-awful seat that seems reasonably priced. Freedom is buying concert tickets, unreasonably excited about the prospect of smashing against other fans spewing lyrics no matter where we’re sitting.
In a pandemic politicized by all sides, there’s been a lot of debate focused on where my freedom begins and yours ends. Many wanted to be free to not wear masks in public indoor spaces, even before vaccines were readily available. Many want our kids to be free to leave masks behind, too. Others want to feel safer, less likely to contract this virus from those less concerned about its ill effects or unconvinced by advice from health officials.
Once I hit the two weeks since that last shot, I felt the sweet freedom of caring just a little less about which side of the debates I’m on and which side other people are on. You’re free to follow whatever health advice you want so long as it doesn’t affect my health or the health of my loved ones.
I’m fully charged, well past 14 days since that last dose went in my arm — the soreness but a faint memory.
I see others tentative to grab onto this freedom. They sit down at a table inside a restaurant and it somehow just feels wrong. They wear their mask when others are nearby, even knowing the others are vaccinated.
It’s hard to let go of the conditioning that likely has kept some of us safer than we would have been without the masks and social distance.
Still, the Centers for Disease Control has advised the fully vaccinated that we can in most cases drop the masks. How will we know if all the folks dropping their masks inside the grocery store are vaccinated? We won’t. We also know they weren’t all wearing their masks to begin with, but that doesn’t matter so much to those of us who have been vaccinated.
I’ve got my ticket to freedom. And no, it didn’t come with a chip.
No, it doesn’t make me bulletproof, but the number of cases of those getting COVID-19 after being vaccinated is pretty darn small — small enough for me to lay claim to this freedom.
I’m free to get a cold. I’m free to stand in a crowded line. Free to cough inside.
Free to connect with other people.
Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a North Hall resident.