I don’t know what compelled me to buy a Dr. Pepper. It had been years since I’d tasted the stuff, and I’d never actually liked it all that much. Yet there I was, grabbing a 16-oz. bottle of it out of a snack bar cooler and handing over my debit card.
When I twisted the cap a few minutes later and took a swig, what flowed into my mouth tasted almost nothing like the distinctive cherry-cola flavor my taste buds were expecting. In fact, it tasted like nothing much at all — imagine a Dr. Pepper-scented seltzer, or what’s left at the bottom of a glass of it once all the ice has melted. “Huh,” I thought. “Maybe I just got a bad bottle?”
It wasn’t until that night, when I drove past a road-killed skunk and my kids shrieked hysterically about the stench, that I knew something was wrong. I smelled nothing.
I booked a COVID test the next day. Two days after that, I followed a link to a secure web portal to review my results. The report said simply, “Detected.” When I received a call from the state later that day confirming my positive result, my reaction surprised me. I was elated — bordering on giddy. After months of OCD-ish vigilance, I’d somehow been infected. And I was OK. I wasn’t going to die. And, assuming I’d enjoy at least some level of post-infection immunity, I was — within reason — liberated.
In an instant, it was as if the entire quadrant of my brain that had been pressed into service to process COVID anxiety had been flung open for other uses — like feeling hopeful. Like seeing life’s possibilities again. Like exhaling for the first time in months.
In reading our piece this month on the obstacles that are hindering efforts to vaccinate Black Michiganders, I wondered what it will be like when we finally hit a critical mass of vaccinations and achieve herd immunity. Will society collectively experience that same giddy sense of release from COVID angst that I felt. Will our shared funk lift swiftly, ushering in a period of 1920s-style exuberance? Will some of the crazy that has infected our culture over the past year dissipate as people find better things to do with their time?
And especially important here in a state whose economy has been battered by this pandemic and its consequent shutdowns: Will post-COVID America enjoy the equivalent of a post-war economic boom?
I imagine the post-COVID era feeling a lot like spring after a Michigan winter — that monochromatic purgatory of a season that can grind a person down as mercilessly as a COVID lockdown. (If I were to write a book about winter here, I’d call it Fifty-One Shades of Gray.) Several pieces in this month’s issue celebrate the welcome arrival of spring — and the colorful blooms that come with it.
Whatever post-COVID life feels like, I know I for one am going to want a long vacation when it’s finally safe to travel the world again. In the meantime, we’ve compiled in this month’s City Guide a road map for replicating trips abroad — including the Middle East, Asia, and Greece — right here in metro Detroit, where we’re blessed to have a nearly endless variety of ways to sample the cultures of the world without booking a flight.