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Kevin J. O'Toole, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is a former New Jersey State Senator. (Photo: Kevin J. O'Toole.)

The O’Toole Chronicles: Life As We Know It

By Kevin O'Toole, July 07 2021 12:01 am

Over the past week or so, I have seen sure signs of pre-pandemic life, slowly but surely, starting to emerge.  As we navigate back to our former lives—resuming our schedules with family and friends and ramping up our back-to-work protocols—we find ourselves yearning for social outreach, to resume the life that was put on hold for fifteen months or so. Where do we start?

Visits with friends and family, in-person meetings, a return to walking around mask-free, attending graduations, funerals, and places of worship, attending a child’s school or sporting event, socializing at restaurants and arenas, going to the gym, shopping at a brick-and-mortar store (time to give the Amazon folks some well-deserved rest)—those all seem like good places to start and will make life feel more normal.

A few years from now, during one reflective moment or another, we will look back and ask ourselves how we functioned during this unprecedented time. The isolation, the fear, the death, the heartache, the disruption, and the uncertainty all led to an unprecedented, stress-filled period. I’m not sure we can yet fully appreciate or quantify the emotional, physical, and psychological toll borne by so many. But the darkness turns to light.

It’s time to turn the page and move on.

In an effort to get back to business as usual, last week, I attended a Yankees game, and Yankee Stadium never felt or looked so good. The Stadium was at half capacity, but it sounded like Game 7 of the World Series. The fans seemed nicer, friendlier. The ushers and staff were thrilled to be back. It also didn’t hurt that the Yankees won in walk-off style in the bottom of the 9th. I would love to tell you that I stayed as Luke Voit bounced a game-ending double off the left-center field wall. I didn’t. I left in the 8th inning, but I listened to the end of the game happily sitting in traffic on the Deegan. Note that, growing up listening to and watching Yankees games, Phil Rizzuto was my influencer (had to be there in the 1970s and 80s).

A few days ago, I attended a show at Newark’s NJPAC, where we saw local comedian, Vic DiBitetto.  I was not overly enthusiastic going in, but the show was far funnier than advertised. More to the point, Vic came out before the actual performance to engage the small and socially distanced audience and exclaimed: “Isn’t is great to be out again, to be among fellow humans, to talk and laugh out loud?” With those few words, Vic summed up what everyone in the theatre was thinking.

Who would have thought that attending a ballgame or watching a show could bring so much joy to this cynical, retired politician? The point is, we all should embark on the return journey and start doing the simple things in life. We all need to get back to life as we used to know it—this time a little wiser and more appreciative of what we have. I also think that we all should be a bit more appreciative of the little things in life, those little things so many of us previously took for granted.

I know that this column is not overly political, and I’m sure a few insiders will think this is wasted space (I can already see State Senator Vin Gopal’s text to me expressing disappointment in the content). But it is time, time to get back with a renewed spirit to forge ahead.


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