Doorbells Are Silent During the Pandemic. What Happens When They Ring Again?
Doorbells have long been on their way to becoming a vestigial organ of any house. We went from customising doorbells to sound like chirping birds and Bollywood tunes to barely using them, a phenomenon many attribute to millennials. An increase in social media-induced antisocial behaviour, coupled with a near-ubiquitous reliance on smart phones, then led to the demise of the loud and aggressive doorbell in favour of a simple, silent text announcing “here.” Increasingly, at the sound of the doorbell, many people started choosing to stand motionless and silent, rocking with anxiety, instead of opening the door to see what the brave, intrusive stranger wanted. With the infiltration of technology into all aspects of our lives, people became recluses in their homes, alienated from their own neighbours. And then the coronavirus pandemic hit.
There is nobody left to text “here,” as all movement is prohibited under the Covid19 lockdown. The doorbell, an object treated with suspicion before, hangs all but forgotten as the possibility of anyone ringing it disappears. Recluses are now mandated to be reclusive, momentarily free of the responsibility to entertain strangers, as even their friends retreat back to their homes and families.
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In the before times, the doorbell had signaled the unscheduled arrival of a nosy neighbor that we’d have to ward off with sickly sweet smiles, or a pushy solicitor we’d have to be strict with. In the present times, its vestigiality is an echo of the empty world outside, a reminder of the compactness of most people’s worlds today, stuffed within four walls of their homes. In the after times — if and when there are any — the suspect doorbell will signify more than an unwelcome guest.
The people Covid19 made suspicious might see the threat of infection at their doorstep; those made hungry for physical contact might trade in their reflex anxiety at the doorbell ring for a chance at human company again; those finding comfort under lockdown might just retain their doorbell aversion and revel in their freedom.
As the Covid19 pandemic severely upends people’s realities, what it means to be social — how often we socialize, how we socialize, with whom we socialize — is changing. Will we be more welcoming of strangers? Will we appreciate everyday small talk more? Or will we further recuse ourselves from the outside world for fear of ill health? Nobody knows in these unprecedented times, staring down the barrel of an uncertain future.
What happens when the doorbell rings again?