After a good Sherlockian weekend, you come home with a lot of things: new books, inspirations for new projects, new acquaintances . . . maybe even a new friend or two. And now, a week after the "Holmes, Doyle & Friends" conference in Dayton, I can safely say I didn't come home with that other thing. You know the one.
We all heard about the precautions taken in New York in January of this year: vaccination cards, masks, limited events/attendance . . . all the hallmarks of the Coronavirus pandemic. New York City had learned some hard lessons at the start of this thing, and the easily transmissible Omicron variant was spiking hard after Christmas gatherings. Most of the Sherlockians who went came home healthy, but those of us who stayed home didn't feel too badly about the choice.
Dayton, however, was an entirely difference thing. The Omicron spike was over. Masking rules had been taken down in most places at the end of February. And a lot of the midwest was a lot more casual about the disease than New York City. Attending Holmes, Doyle & Friends in Dayton, Ohio this year, you might not have thought the pandemic ever existed.
The first social event of the weekend was a crowded cocktail hour in someone's hotel room, where just walking up to the open door you felt the warm humid air of a crowded, enclosed space. I stayed in the hallway until someone suggested the adjoining room with far fewer people, and even then was a little nervous about my first maskless socializing in a very long time. At this point, those of us who have run the gauntlet and never had Covid (that we know of -- with that mystery symptomless option for the vaxxed folks, you never know), well, those of us who have avoided it would kind of like to stay that way.
It was the first indication of where the weekend was headed. The full-on reception that followed at a nearby hotel was entirely maskless, as was the following day. We talked about concerns in small, private conversations with those whose sensibilities we know and trust, but we knew we were going with the hopeful herd and rolling the dice with the sixty or seventy other Sherlockians who were just delighted to be back in the world we had missed for so long.
Was the mild sore throat I had earlier this week just from Saturday night's karaoke or possibly some milder bug just from being around other humans again after so long? At this point, that's what I'm going with. Is the pandemic over? Well, given the news out of China, I'd say "most probably not," but as we saw last year, when summer vaxxed fun turned into variant surge autumn, seasonal cycles could be our new normal.
Given the patterns I've seen with places I've gone, we'll probably see more mask-wearing at 221B Con, for sure. Major city airport hotel with a lot larger attendance, and my casual observations at local stores seems to indicate that masks are being used more often by younger folks and more females than males -- which is a goodly chunk of the 221B Con demographic. I've got some good masks I feel comfortable in at this point, and have been sitting in movie theaters wearing them since new movies first came back to theaters, so it's just a part of life now, a mode as easy to slip into as buckling a seat belt.
But I'll admit it, my love of Sherlockiana did override my sensible caution brain in Dayton. I don't think it was peer pressure -- more like just seeing someone else cannonball into the chilly pool and going "Okay, I guess we're doing this!" And we do love and trust our fellow Sherlockians more than random folks at the local Menard's. (Although those places are so big and airy, it became a favorite place to shop, even in Covid times.) Working for a hospital system, I was very aware of the current numbers, and the odds were very good compared to January, even if the risk was still there. But even with that excuse, it still felt a little foolish . . . but, hey, I'm the guy who will sing karaoke with no decent singing voice.
Which makes it a little funny when you consider how many people are more frightened by karaoke than spreading a disease. Back in Peoria, I masked up this week when around folks at stores, etc., just in case I was carrying the virus, so no one else paid for my Sherlockian indulgence. St. Patrick's Day was this week, and fans of alcohol and cabbage are basically having the spring fling Sherlockians had in Dayton. (Did fans of alcohol ever stop flinging without an actual lockdown? My friends who caught covid pre-vax all got it in bars.) These days, it's very hard to predict where we'll be in a few months, or even weeks.
Events are being planned, some "normal" is being attempted, yet Zoom and masks are something that a lot of folks have gotten very used to as a new normal. Let's hope we all stay healthy, whatever it takes.