I’ve been researching ancient cultures and went as far back in time as possible — to B.C. (Before COVID).

The first thing that struck me about this primitive civilization was that most people worked outside their homes. This required them to expend considerable time and expense traveling to their offices. They called this ancient practice “commuting.”

Commuting involved riding crowded trains and buses or fighting traffic in a car. But some social benefits were involved. Workers gathered to talk in break rooms, or simply stopped to chat in the hallways. There was a feeling of “teamwork.” This sense of shared purpose sometimes extended beyond the work day, when co-workers would gather at “watering holes.”

Besides traveling to work, these primeval people trekked to sports events. Experts are puzzled why they would go to so much trouble to attend an event in-person when they could more comfortably watch on TV. Nonetheless, they would pack stadiums, where they spent enormous amounts of money on food and drink. There is no recorded complaint about paying these prices, nor the astronomical cost of tickets and parking.  Apparently watching sports relieved stress, and they found it fun to socialize with like-minded people.

People from this era would also pack stadiums to hear music concerts. They could easily stream these events in their living room but insisted on going to the trouble and expense of watching and listening to “live music.” Some reported that attending concerts was exhilarating and “life-changing.” They treasured the feeling of togetherness and sometimes sang along with the band.

Besides sports and music, people attended plays and movies. This is especially baffling because they could easily watch these productions on their many devices. They insisted, though, on packing into auditoriums with strangers and paying for costly concessions.

These special events aside, everyday life was far different back then. Wearing masks was not widespread. In fact, the only ones who wore masks were health-care workers, superheroes and bank robbers. 

People also practiced elaborate greeting rituals, like shaking hands, hugging and, in extreme cases, kissing cheeks. Some members of this ancient society advanced to the fist bump but they knew nothing of the elbow bump.

Physical affection was rampant in those days. Much of it took place at frequent family gatherings. These get-togethers featured some kind of feast. Food hygiene was almost unheard of back then. People clung to an ancient superstition which said that dropped food was still safe if it was picked up in five seconds. They didn’t scrub their groceries when they got home from the store. They were so ignorant of disease, they encouraged the guest of honor to blow out the candles on their birthday cake.

Celebrations like these would also take place outside the home at restaurants. Though the health benefits of eating only home-cooked meals is obvious, people insisted on having meals that others had prepared. This was known as “eating out.” Experts discovered there were emotional benefits to sharing meals and drinks at bars and restaurants.

There were many other strange practices during this bygone era, including students sitting together in classrooms, worshippers sitting together in pews and neighbors clustering in kitchens.

Now that I have a greater understanding of mankind’s past, I can’t wait to study modern civilization. I’m going to start with the A.C. era. College kids will again congregate on Madison Street, with “Black Wednesday” serving as a huge reunion. On Thanksgiving morning, some hearty souls will have the stamina to play touch football at The Park. Afterward, there will be a feast at grandma’s house. Instead of fist-bumping, there will be warm hugs — and possibly a kiss on the cheek.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.