The pandemic has left our best-laid plans in disarray, but we can still have spur-of-the-moment adventures
Back in the wild old days, my best buddy and I used to call going out “looking for trouble”. We weren’t hoping for a punch-up or a little light robbery, but a spontaneous adventure involving music, strangers or just the city at night. All that spur-of-the-moment fun has taken quite a beating since the pandemic began, for many millions of us. First came the lockdowns, social distancing and closed venues, then the cautious reopening when even a trip to the pub or an art gallery had to be booked weeks in advance. And now, just when it seemed the world was finally getting back to normal, Omicron has come wielding its everything’s-off-again sledgehammer, crushing all those dreams of nights out, holidays and raucous parties. Not only does it seem foolish to plan anything, but after two years of frustration and self-restraint, it’s hard to summon up the enthusiasm to do anything off the cuff.
And that’s quite a loss. While we often think anticipation is half the fun, in 2016 researchers from two US universities found that people enjoyed activities more when they were impromptu. Scheduling a coffee break or a movie, for instance, made them feel “less free-flowing and more work-like”, wrote the authors. As Jane Austen put it 200 years ago in Emma: “Why not seize the pleasure at once? – How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!”