The road less travelled

By now, everyone in the world must have viewed that TikTok video of the man roller-boarding on a roadway, lip-synching a snippet of “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, and drinking juice from a jug. He’s just an ordinary guy, living in an RV outside his brother’s house, on his way to work as a labourer in a potato factory. Yet his carefree mood, the music, and the movement created magic for so many. I guess the explanation must be nostalgia as we recall the easy freedoms of pre-pandemic times.

Covid-19 has drastically changed the way we communicate. A businessman told me he was recently deposed for a long-running dispute about a deal. In the past, he’d fly to the U.S. state in which the lawsuit was filed. So would the other parties plus lawyers for all sides. Instead, the seven-hour session was done on Zoom. No flights, no hotel overnights, no taxis to and from airports. Similarly, my partner spoke at and helped organize two online panels last week hosted by the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. She was the only speaker in Toronto. The other six presenters appeared via Zoom from various European venues.The 200-member online audience was much larger than a sit-down session would have been and follow-up commentary was more voluminous than usual.

To be sure, not everyone participates in such thoughtful exercises. More than one-quarter of Canadians live alone and many are lonely at the moment. This past Thanksgiving was the first in my lifetime where I did not celebrate with family. And, while online buying has mushroomed, it doesn’t always work well. How many times have you been told that something is either unavailable or delivery has been delayed because of Covid. When retailers tell you that, there is nothing you can say, even if you are suspicious they’re just using Covid as an excuse.

Covid has altered us in ways both good and bad. We are far more watchful of people nearby but on the other hand more trusting that proper steps are being taken. That makes us both more in tune with society yet less comfortable. It’s a gentle balance that calls for a roller-board and a song.


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