I’ve had the good fortune to work on my own, out of my house, since 1989. The arrangement suits me well. As an introvert, I don’t need — or want — a boss breathing down my neck or colleagues constantly interrupting me (unless they have a good ribald joke to share). At one point in the mid-’90s, I wrote an article explaining how I saved about 1,354 hours a year by working out of my house, rather than commuting to work.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust millions of Americans into the remote working — or learning or meeting — mode. My own two sons — one living in Seattle, the other in Philadelphia — have decided that they now prefer working from home to going to an office. Many young professionals enjoy the remote working situation, although others say they miss the office environment. My good wife Tina, who spent her career as a speech pathologist working with babies and toddlers, scoffs at the notion of engaging remotely with rambunctious two-year-olds.

Like most people, even those of my vintage, I’ve come up to speed with Zoom: Church Vestry meetings; book club meetings; men’s club meetings; community association meetings; etc. I even “attended” a Zoom birthday party for my five-year-old granddaughter Phoebe.

The nation’s colleges have been wrestling with the no-one-right-answer matter of reopening in the fall. Bowdoin took a fairly conservative approach, opting to bring to campus only first-year students, upper-class resident assistants and seniors whose honors projects required being on campus. My granddaughter Emma, who was admitted to Bowdoin’s Class of 2024, decided to take a gap year, believing that she’ll have a more complete first-year experience if she begins in September 2021. She’ll be spending this fall at the High Mountain Institute in Colorado and the spring working on an organic farm with WWOOF, a worldwide organic farming organization.

I don’t envy college administrators who’ve tried to balance educational and financial concerns with ensuring the health and safety of students, faculty and administrators. Only time will tell which colleges and universities developed the soundest strategy. Some observers predict that many of them will close down early in the first semester after being unable to prevent severe outbreaks. And others, myself included, believe that hundreds of colleges may be forced to close because of an insufficient financial endowment to tap during these trying times.

The nation’s public school administrators face equally challenging decisions. The White House is pushing an all-schools-must-reopen strategy, driven by Trump’s wish for the nation to return to normalcy. Most parents as well as public school teachers rightly question this let-er-rip approach. Again, time will reveal the soundest course. Every American wants things to return to normal or as near to normal as possible. Few Americans believe, however, that the nation’s youngest citizens should be sacrificed on the altar of expedience or for the sake of the economy.

Can remote learning be as effective as in-class learning? In my view, it can’t be in most cases. Many educators believe it can work better with older students and adults than with young children. Most college and public school students I’ve spoken with noted that the remote classes held last spring after the virus hit were a poor substitute for in-class learning or, worse, a joke. Hopefully, improvements will have been made by the fall

Let’s look, for a moment, on the bright side of the situation. The quality of the air benefits when fewer people drive to work. Birds in cities, it seems, enjoy the clearer air. That’s one way to tackle climate change. Working remotely is almost certainly more efficient. That said, many essential workers don’t enjoy this privilege. The gap between the haves and the have-nots will no doubt increase if the trend continues. On the other hand, Maine may become a more desirable place to live in if people can work from home. Why pay New York or Boston or San Francisco housing prices if you can live in Maine or in some other more peaceful setting?

When Tina tries to impart wisdom to young people, she invariably stresses the need to “be nimble.” That’s always good advice, but especially so during the pandemic. All of us must be nimble and flexible as we continue to try to navigate life under COVID-19. Live each day, day after day, has become the necessary new mantra. What will the next twelve months bring to Maine and to the nation? Who knows? I sure don’t.

As the days and weeks pass and we all get just a little older and feel just a little more stir-crazy, we would do well to be just a little kinder to those around us — and to ourselves. But I sure do miss giving real hugs. An “air hug” just doesn’t come remotely close to doing it for me.

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected]

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