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Back to work

BY Sonny Orr Aug 14, 2020

I trudged back to work. Shaking off my Covid blues, my growing adjustment to wearing a facemask while talking to people made me feel that some measures were working. At least the incredible cleanliness of my workspace benefitted my socks as they picked up nary a speck of dirt, flotsam or jetsam. 

I think of other cultures, such as the Japanese, who managed dirt like it was totally non-existent. Litter was a very bad word to say out loud. I wonder how clean our air supply is and check out an app for flights only to discover that not too many aircraft are flying around in Canada. South of the border, however, it’s a wonder that they don’t crash into each other.

The mask seems to have taken on a culture of its own. Many people are designing and making masks that are tailor-made to suit everyone’s personal style. Feel happy, put on a happy face. Feeling dark and sinister? Well, there seems to be a lot of black masks out there to reflect your outlook. I prefer the non-statement mask, as nothing really makes sense in this situation. 

The roads have recently reopened, and hordes of shop-happy Cree are flooding the malls in Abitibi. It seems like the vendors are happy too, but you can’t tell because they’re all wearing masks. The bars opened to a limited group and slap-happy people nearly caused another shutdown in Montreal. But patrons quickly learned their viral lessons, and the happiness is still felt being shared by patrons and bar owners. 

If only we had bars in the communities – all the mess left over from outdoor parties would most likely disappear along with some of the woes that come from wanton drinking binges. Some things will never change, unless somebody gets the bright idea to legally control alcohol consumption, and for a profit. That would brighten many a social worker’s day, I would think.

Now almost the whole summer has slipped by, nearly spoiled except for the exceptional weather patterns that made the North a very sunny place to be. With fall coming, what will happen with the annual hunts? I guess that everyone will head back to the bush and harvest for what might be a strange winter. And what will my mask do at 40 below? Probably prevent frostbite and ward off germs. But do we need to wear a mask in the winter? I wouldn’t worry about it now as August, the only month without a national holiday, slips by unnoticed.

As for my work, I’m gladly taking the time to catch up and carry out various damage control duties, such as postponing everything to next year. Thanks to technology and the internet, meetings are even easier to attend by sitting back in your favourite conference-room armchair. 

The beauty of all this is that everyone can see if you leave for some reason, so I guess this type of meeting is better. Yeah, who needs a fancy hotel that charges your credit card for every little thing and leaves you without any funds to have fun? 

I noticed that local sales have skyrocketed because we don’t spend money outside the community. 

Covid shutdown? What’s that? Nope, the need to spend elsewhere has people saving for big-ticket items up here in the North. ATVs and vehicles are in demand and waiting for the next cargo shipment is what it’s all about. 

The post office is doing double duty too, as online shopping in your pajamas is a favourite hobby. Poor delivery people. I hope they don’t vote for another strike and shut us down even more as they struggle to keep up with the demand. 

Today, the only escape is if you are a patient in need of medical attention. So people are healthier now. Who needs medical leave because of self-inflicted woes?

As far as I can see, which is only as far as the neighbours’ house, life is just different. We have adapted and will continue to live our lives, masked or not. 

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Sonny Orr is Cree from Chisasibi, and has been a columnist for the Nation for over 20 years. He regularly pens Rez Notes from the cozy social club in Whapmagoostui where he resides.