Dancing over the low bar of current normal

Published 7:01 am Saturday, May 16, 2020

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If COVID-19 has done anything else other than severely cramp our activities, it’s lowered the bar of expectation.

I’m no longer surprised by those things that normally should surprise me, and when I hear something that would otherwise cause me to think, “huh, that’s weird,” I instead think, “huh, that’s a thing now.”

Case in point, I was photographing a reverse parade Thursday evening at Pacelli. I’ve photographed several of them now as schools are continuing to plan events that will allow teachers and students to connect perhaps one last time before this current school year — such as it is — comes to an end.

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Families drove past the teachers, waiving and smiling and cheering. It was all very normal and then local farmer Tom Cotter drove by in a tractor. And I thought, “seems about right.”

Actually, I thought it was a very cool and neat gesture by Tom to honor students and the graduating seniors. I’ve always liked Tom, in part because he’s always been very patient in explaining the ins and outs of farming to a guy who struggles with even the simplest of farming concepts. Where Tom sees possibility in soil, I’m standing there thinking, “Yep, that’s dirt.”

Another example happened that same day while talking to Austin Public Schools’ John Alberts about a shift in distance learning grading.

At the same time he was talking about having trouble keeping the days from feeling like one long day, I admitted to not being able to answer very easy questions like how am I doing?

“Hi Eric, how are you doing today?”




It’s a simple question, yet I’m unsure how to answer it. “How are you doing?”

Mainly, I think I’m not sure how to answer it because I’m not sure what the day is bringing. If I answer, “It’s a great day!,” undoubtedly a tornado will spawn from the sun ridden by the cowardly lion or some such nonesense.

It’s just a weird time in life and so I’ve embraced the low bar and continue to hope I don’t trip over it because really that seems about right these days as well.

Remember a basketball or football game you were watching and you saw somebody trip without any help? Without fail it would always seem they tripped by a line on the playing surface. You would laugh, hit your buddy on the arm and point. “Hey, gotta watch out for those lines,” and he would laugh and you pretend it was just as funny as the first time he made that joke in the first half.

“That never gets old Fred.” Yes it does. It absolutely gets old, but you are friends with Fred so you let it slide. That’s what friends do.

That’s kind of what 2020 feels like right now. We’re all tripping over the lines and somebody is making a joke about watching out for those lines.

Shut up Fred.

It’s also the reason I’m not sure how to answer any more. It just feels like it gets weirder and weirder every day on top of the already new weird. Honestly, it feels like this would be the time aliens would reveal themselves and tell us the world really was flat, except it wouldn’t be shocking.

Instead we would all answer with a collective, “Oh for … now what?

That should really be our new national slogan when you think about it. “Now what?” Or even more simply, “Seriously?”

It works well with the whole low bar philosophy.