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Sometimes, A Storm Can Bring Good Things


The pandemic has changed the way we do a lot of things, including how we communicate with each other.  Even though we're all working to practice social distancing, WUWF commentator Carl Wernicke recently discovered that a little person to person "face time" can be quite beneficial, as he explains in this weeks' essay. 

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good. That’s an old saying the pandemic has brought home to all of us.

But reality is a complex mix of cause and effect, good and bad and, sometimes an ill wind blows a hurricane, and sometimes it can blow us closer together.

The resiliency of mankind lies in our ability to rise to the occasion. In the long arc of history we have always done that, even if sometimes the arc has been long. And I’m sure we are doing it again.

We’ve all seen stories, in the news and social media, of people recalibrating their lives, shedding material distractions and refocusing on human relationships. As always in times of crisis, things we have become attached to lose importance, replaced by a renewed focus on family and friends. And neighbors.

So there’s a certain irony that this is being facilitated by social media that has also been criticized for isolating us from each other, rather than connecting us.

Apps like FaceTime and Zoom and Google Hangout are facilitating face-to-face communication among people who had taken to texting and messaging and emailing as the height of connection. Both my wife and her family, and me and mine, have joined this video revolution, and it is a comforting new reality.

But even in this age of social distancing, physical contacts can also be explored.

The violent wind storm that blew through Pensacola last month blasted 10 plastic panels off our greenhouse. I found seven scattered around our yard. Peering over a side fence, I found two more. But heavy foliage obscured the yards directly behind us. So, in a light rain, I walked around the block, looking up into trees, on roofs and into backyards unguarded by fences. No luck.

I then took a second walk. This time I knocked on doors … being sure to stand back six feet … and met many previously unmet neighbors. Almost everyone was home, and everyone who was let me into their back yard. Again, no luck as I worked my way around the block. That left a house behind a fence that might or might not be the one with a menacing dog. I couldn’t remember.

So I asked the man who lived across the street, whom I had sometimes waved to when walking or biking, if he knew who lived in the house, and he said sure. He grabbed his umbrella, came out in the road and yelled several times through an open door, “Mike!” Mike eventually came to the door, my new friend explained the problem, and Mike pointed me through a gate into his back yard and said you are welcome to go look.

I did, and there was the 10th panel, lying on the grass.

The next day I dropped off some of my wife’s freshly baked cookies to my newly met neighbors, and as it turned out, that ill wind had blown in a good result for all of us.

Carl Wernicke is a native of Pensacola. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1975 with a degree in journalism. After 33 years as a reporter and editor, he retired from the Pensacola News Journal in April 2012; he spent the last 15 years at the PNJ as editor of the editorial page. He joined the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in 2012 as Senior Writer and Communications Manager, and retired from IHMC in 2015.His hobbies include reading, traveling, gardening, hiking, enjoying nature around his home in Downtown Pensacola, as well as watching baseball and college football, especially the Florida Gators and New York Yankees. His wife, Patti, retired as a senior vice president at Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union and is a Master Gardener. Carl is a regular contributor to WUWF. His commentaries focus on life in and around the Pensacola area and range in subject matter from birding to downtown redevelopment and from preserving our natural heritage to life in local neighborhoods.