Hugs and handshakes seem to be disappearing like buildings washed away by waters in a storm surge. Such social gestures are fading fast.

   Hurricanes and coronaviruses have similarities. Ironically, here we are in the middle of hurricane season while still wandering in a weird state of corona-life. The pandemic didn't go away with humidity as people had hoped. The virus is actually thriving.    Mean-while winds off the coast of Africa twirled their way into the Gulf forming worries of not only one hurricane, but two this week. After all, it is the year 2020 when nothing seems to surprise us anymore.

   Hurricanes kill people and destroy landmarks. Like-wise, the injurious coronavirus is killing people or severely harming them with anticipated long-range health ramifications. In addition to stealing our population, it is also claiming our customs. How long has it been since you warmly greeted a friend without giving it a second thought? It hurts to not hug and shake hands.

   It's been almost six months since I hugged a friend free of concern or shook hands with a new friend who was actually a stranger. The customs of hugs and handshakes are disappearing like landmarks lost on a beach boulevard. I don't expect bodily embraces with others will return in the way we once welcomed them. While it is sad to suffer the loss of nostalgic structures, buildings can be rebuilt. Lately I've pondered how we will reinvent our social customs. Like new landmarks, they will look different. They might actually be better, or at least safer. After all, although with good intentions, many of us were invading others' personal spaces a little too much, and some of us definitely were not washing our hands enough.

   By human nature we worry about the unknown. My husband has a profound statement about his concern with the global virus, "We don't know what we don't know," he quips. It reminds me of the Socrates paradox, "I know that I know nothing." When the coronavirus made landfall in the United States earlier this year, none of us knew what to expect. We still don't know as the mystery disease affects people in different ways with different symptoms and different outcomes. Some, it seems, contract it and spread it without ever realizing the damage they have done. We know the damage a hurricane can do because we witness their winds to varying

degrees every few years. Now and then we get whoppers like Camille and Katrina causing us to never lose respect for Mother Nature. COVID-19 is like a Category 5 hurricane hitting all 50 states at once. There's another similarity - we name storms and, apparently, we name coronaviruses.

   Back in March when it became evident COVID-19 would invade Mississippi, people reacted as if a tropical storm was coming - an invisible tempest that couldn't be tracked or predicted. All of us were trying to figure out what to do, what to buy, what to touch. We grappled with the loss of sports, weddings and graduations. We idealized how wonderful life was before the virus, and we just couldn't wait until summer killed the bug and everything went back to the pre-COVID-19 days.

   Nowadays as I try to recall events, it seems that activities just last Christmas appear as though they occurred a hundred years ago. I relate happenings to whether they took place before we had heard of the peculiar virus or afterward. Similarly, for the past 15 years when relating events, I, and all of us, have said "before Katrina" or "after Katrina."

   Time marks the difference in a hurricane and COVID-19. Hurricanes happen quickly. COVID-19 lurks.   Camille and Katrina wrecked buildings overnight. COVID-19 slowly stole our social customs.

Unfortunately, it took a furious virus to make us appreciate the little things in life. Take a good, long look the next time you witness a hug or a handshake. They're fading fast.

  Award-winning journalist Nancy Jo Maples has been writing about Mississippi people and places for more than 30 years. Contact her at

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