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Office Hours

What Was Your Last Moment in the Before Times?

What's the last thing you can remember doing before all of....this?

Atlas Entertainment, Classico, Universal Pictures

As has been noted many, many, many times: the pandemic, and in particularly, staying in quarantine, has warped our sense of time beyond recognition. For the past year, we’ve seen days, weeks, and months slosh together into some ill-defined chronological chowder, rendering last Thursday as remote as this past July, and Memorial Day weekend as recent as the WandaVision finale. Still, temporal aphasia notwithstanding, this week marks the one-year anniversary of the moment when I choose to believe the coronavirus pandemic really began.

Yes, there were cases inside the United States well before mid-March. And yes, the klaxons were already ringing loud enough for anyone mildly attuned enough to the drumbeats of doom and gloom to hear them. But for me, personally, it all started a year ago today, March 11, 2020, with Tom Hanks.

I’m apparently not the only one, either. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson’s public affirmation that they had contracted the then-still-semi-mysterious COVID-19 strain of coronavirus was for lots of people the point when the pandemic went from abstract to acute and defined. It was the line between “before” and whatever this past year has been. And when I reach back into the nebulous haze beyond that membrane of time, the first thing, or, perhaps more accurately, the last thing — the last normal, uninfected, non-COVID-iffied thing — I remember is a child’s birthday party a few days earlier. Family was there. A few friends. We had donuts instead of cake, and all just sat around shooting the shit about whatever it was people used to shoot the shit about back then when we didn’t have an obvious and overwhelming catastrophe to talk about.

Now that we have reached the one-year anniversary of Tom and Rita’s diagnosis, I thought this week’s Office Hours could be about the Before Times — the very last of the Before Times. Those final few normal moments before everything went sideways. What’s the last, un-coronavirus tainted thing you remember doing around this time one year ago? Odds are it was something which, at the time, felt painfully mundane, but which with the benefit of hindsight seems foreign and incomprehensible and bittersweet in the context of our distanced, quarantined, masked existence these days.

So let’s get nostalgic, folks. It’s been a hell of a year. Where were you when the end was beginning?

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