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What I’ve learned from COVID-19

BY Will Nicholls May 8, 2020

You learn something new every day. This pandemic has opened my eyes in a few different ways. We all knew that politicians were mostly hot air, but this situation has taken it to new levels. The daily briefings by leaders are something to behold. It is interesting how often medical experts directly contradict precisely what politicians are saying during their daily updates. 

While telling us not to panic, politicians still instill fear and use it to control our behaviour. Some of it makes sense and other rules don’t. For instance, the rule of no kids in the store ignores the fact that there are single parents out there. So what can they do if they need supplies and don’t have a credit card to do e-shopping? Leave the kid with a neighbour? That sort of defeats the social distancing and isolation factors. And what if you don’t have a neighbour you can really trust or think might have some COVID-19 symptoms?

But the government bodies have come through in various ways. I learned some of them have a heart. Public transportation in Montreal is free and I have never seen more than 10 people on a bus, so the social distancing is easy.

Having grown up during the Cold War, I have a deeper understanding of what I read about Russia. We are experiencing a lot of what Russians lived for decades in the Soviet Union. Some line-ups for grocery stores are a block long here in Montreal. At times shelves were bare – whenever a truck delivered certain items there was a run on them and people began to hoard items, with toilet paper being the most popular.

We have learned to distrust not only strangers, but our own neighbours. We are becoming a nation of snitches, encouraged to inform on each other if we think someone is not following the government directives.

Police have been given greater powers than any time in the past here in Canada. One person I know must carry a letter saying he works for an essential service just to go to work. Police officers who had asked him where he was going told him he must carry the letter at all times. 

We have learned that the most important people in our society are not those we thought of as rich or powerful. Instead it is the frontline workers working at grocery stores, gas stations, hospitals, fire and police stations, old-age homes, and those who deliver our essential items. It is also those, who out of the goodness of their hearts, make sure the elderly living alone are doing okay while assisting them in many ways.

On a lighter side, I am losing weight because I am walking more than I have in long time. One night I went for a walk because I had a severe case of cabin fever. On my way back there were two girls sitting on their porch. One of them said, “Hi sexy!” As I looked over with a smile she added, “Too bad about COVID-19.” 

The encounter made me feel good about myself for about five steps. Then it hit me. This is a new way to tease the boys.

There are many other things I learned, but time is short. So I’ll end it here by recognizing another class of essential workers: Happy Mother’s Day to my mother and all mothers everywhere.

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Will Nicholls is a Cree from Mistissini. He started his career off in radio and is still one of the youngest radio DJ’s in Canadian history, having a regular show on CFS Moosonee at the age of 12. Will was one of the founding members of the Nation, and has been its only Editor-in-Chief.