Shiralkar: Distance and deception


Garrett Heyd

Columnist Parth Shiralkar discusses the desire for socialization in a time of social distancing.

Parth Shiralkar

Of all the strange and wild abilities we’ve grown to possess as a byproduct of evolution, the most curious is our ability to adjust to smells. The olfactory gland is a highly adaptive organ that enables us to get used to scents (especially stinky ones), which is why we’re unable to comprehend why guests make faces at our impeccable house décor. The tragic part is that we don’t possess the same ability to adapt swiftly to powerful changes in social decorum.

The last time I hugged someone was many weeks ago. It has been a very somber summer for me, and I chose to not write for the Daily during this time because I had several other things on my plate. Chief among them was a full-time internship that was primarily in-person with a dozen caveats. I worked for a start-up over the summer, and there was a total of six regular employees on the roster, so we decided to make it work. Mandated masks, faraway cubicles, the omnipresent bottle of sanitizer, the whole nine yards. Well, two yards, at the very least.

It doesn’t really go away, the urge to high-five with my coworkers on successfully tackling a particularly tricky piece of code, the lingering impulse to have a nice workplace chat where we can all see each other laugh. I’ve recently — with professional help and immense personal effort — managed to grow out of my shell, and it has been ever-so-slightly painful for me to not be able to interact the same way I’m used to. I’ve said it in many of my columns before and I’ll say it again: punchlines do not hit the same when you can’t see your audience smile.

This brings me to an examination of why exactly it is that the bars in Ames still have flamboyant offers going on. In a very vapid attempt to keep a revenue stream afloat, these businesses are attempting to deceive their patrons into believing something that is not real. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I don’t miss dapping the bouncers up in a last-minute effort to not get “escorted from the premises” following a nice, eventful evening. But the pandemic is very real — as is the danger with large groups of people — and to lure this foolish crowd into going back again and again is more than a bit tasteless, I think.

But then again, all we can do is lament these simpletons from the discomfort of our own solitude. As my internship comes to an end, I think back on how incredible this kind of experience has been for me. While my friends are employed in bigger companies, they’re all virtual. While I’m fortunate enough to experience the start-up life in person, I am unable to fully cherish that feeling (playing ping-pong while having to sanitize everything all the time isn’t fun.) We’re all losing out on experiences, and the whole thing is pretty darn annoying, so I’ve started growing plants on the ledge of my window.

At the time of writing this column, 66 out of 3037 students moving into campus residence tested positive for COVID-19. Try not to be deceived by the one-dollar shots and the three-dollar mugs. Think thrice about that get-together, and wash your hands. A little bit of patience, and we can all go back to enjoying eventful evenings. Stay safe.