Where I live, my balcony overlooks most of the financial hub of the city. Calgary has the greatest amount of office space per capita of any city in Canada — and, right now, it is lifeless. Has been for over a year. Every now and again, I spot someone walking around one of the floors of the building nearest me, perhaps a member of the maintenance staff or someone coming in to grab a file. Mostly, though, there are only artifacts of the people who used to work there. Some of them have settled into their home offices; some have perhaps been laid off.
I am one of the lucky ones who gets to work from home. I cannot complain. But my apartment gives me a high-level view of the still bizarre and difficult circumstances we are living through.
Calgary’s city centre is in a river valley; the majority of residential areas are on the high hills surrounding it. Off in the distance, behind rows of houses, I can see the airport. On a nice evening, I used to sit on the balcony while reading or writing, keeping one eye on the planes. Every couple of minutes there would be another arrival or departure. It was warm this evening; I stood on the balcony with a glass of wine and stared at the airport, and it stared quietly back. It was a long time before I saw an arrival.
Today was a nice summer-like day, particularly after last week’s wintry conditions. It was also the day we recorded the highest number of new cases and the highest total active cases in Alberta since this pandemic began.
The extremes of spring weather in Calgary sure feel like a metaphor for how things are going. The end of this pandemic seems to be in sight as people get vaccinated. The warm days are going to encourage people to spend less time indoors where viral particles suspended in airborne droplets spread and infect. Before we get to the end, we have to get through this new wave of infections — and it is kicking our ass.
There was this great metaphor that I am sure someone tweeted a little while ago, and I cannot find any record of it. It has been stuck in my head for weeks now, and I thought of it while looking out at the airport tonight. It goes something like this: pilots who are disoriented or lost will often be so distracted by trying to figure out where they are that, by the time they have their bearings again, they are at risk of fuel starvation.1
I hope this does not come across as aloof. I have a very comfortable life, all things considered. I get to work from home and I do not have to spend time around people very often, so it can be easy to forget the global emergency we are living through — only to be jolted back to reality. As I was heading back to my apartment after dropping some laundry off, the elevator stopped on another floor. The door opened to reveal someone in a hazmat suit. I found out there is a positive case on that floor.
The warmth of spring feels fake, like a lie nature is telling to distract from the turmoil and suffering and fatigue and loss. I know that something close to normalcy is perhaps months away, and I may be vaccinated within weeks. But the distance between here and there will be measured in deaths as much as it will be in doses. The statistics in this province have never been more alarming and the future has never felt so reassuring. I feel like I am living in a paradox.
If you know who tweeted this, please get in touch. I would like to give them credit. ↥︎