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It’s a weird feeling, one I can’t compare to any other time.

I’m referring of course to the reopening last week of the Las Vegas Strip and downtown casinos.

Maybe the nearest I can get is going back to school in the fall sixty-some years ago, always with mixed emotions. Back then, there was the excitement of wondering who my homeroom teacher would be, whether the girl I’d been crushing on for the last year would be in my class, or God forbid, assigned to the other fifth-grade class at St. Augustine’s grade school.

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The downside was that the start of fall classes in those years meant the end of summer, which also meant that I wouldn’t be playing 18 holes or more every day. I was able to do that as a kid because our little north Idaho golf course gave me caddying, driving range-clearing privileges and the shoeshine concession in the men’s locker room. Those odd jobs gave me plenty of pocket money to buy candy and the new Schwinn bicycle I’d been eyeing.

So this just-ended period of quarantine, which lasted about the same as a summer break from school, is over and we can resume a semblance of normalcy. But will it feel normal at all? Hotel workers will be hidden behind masks, there won’t be much if any hugging or high-fiving, and no casinos will be welcoming large crowds. Instead there will be modest gatherings of folks who are happy to be back in the mix, but most will have that cautious look in their eye, the squint that questions if everything will truly return to normal.

A recent national poll conducted by CBS News revealed that 54 percent of Americans surveyed feel that daily life and the way people interact will be permanently changed by the coronavirus. In the age group of 60 and older, that percentage of skeptics is even higher. The group that has the highest rate of optimism that our way of life will return to normal is the 30-and-unders. That makes sense because the younger demographic hasn’t been around long enough to know that world and national events can forever change our way of life. We old-timers have witnessed Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement, the women’s movement, the assassination of charismatic leaders, and several other events that forever changed what was previously considered “normal.”

Political tides can shift like the winds. We were allies with Russia in World War II. Ten years later we were in a Cold War with them, wondering whether they would obliterate us from the face of the earth. That nearly happened in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. If President Kennedy hadn’t called Nikita Khrushchev’s bluff regarding the installation of missile silos 90 miles from Florida, I might be dictating this column from the back nine of Heaven’s Gate municipal golf course.

Stuff happens on our tiny round ball in the cosmos that none of us can predict with any level of certainty.

It is my hope and prayer these modest assemblies in shopping malls and casinos that we are currently enjoying won’t further spread the virus, and that we won’t experience what doomsayers have called “the dreaded second wave.” If God forbid that does happen, I’m not sure the majority of us will be willing to crawl back into our caves and resume the fetal position we just came out of.

I think the old goats among us, present company included, will say hell with it. We’ll be willing to don our masks — maybe — but determined to go about our normal routines. But if they shut all the golf courses again, I’ll just hit a bucket of old range balls down the middle of the street with my rusty one-iron until somebody complains I took out their picture window. 

About the Author

Jack Sheehan

Vegas Vibe columnist Jack Sheehan has lived in Las Vegas since 1976 and writes about the city for Gaming Today. He is the author of 28 books, over 1,000 magazine articles, and has sold four screenplays.

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