I’m a substitute bowler in the Thursday Late-Afternoon League. The league is sanctioned, but no one takes it too seriously. Some weeks, I’m known to knock down more bottles of beer than bowling pins.

It’s also a league that takes place in “Old Waupun.” The Waupun of 2019. A bowling alley filled with all of the regulars. I see dentists, teachers, business owners, nurses, and regular people all having a great time.

With the exception of signs asking folks to practice social distancing, you’d have no idea there is a pandemic going on. No one is wearing a mask or practicing any kind of social distancing. The only thing different is that instead of high fives there are fist and elbow bumps. 

Of course, COVID-19 is what everyone is talking about. From the governor’s pathetic statewide address to employers complaining about staffing issues because of quarantines, employees catching COVID, and school closures, it is the primary topic. But not in a “we’re scared of COVID “ tone, but in a “it’s a virus, we’re all going to catch it, we need to move on and live with it,” tone. 

Which brings me to the Other Waupun.

In this Waupun, you can’t go to church or the hospital without a mask, our parks closed early, the library is a drive through, and our school district can’t figure out how to remain open. 

I’m a parent of two Waupun Area School District (WASD) students, and because of the district’s COVID policies I’ve had at least one kid home on virtual schooling since October 26 and I will have at least one kid home through November 17, with more extensions of online school expected Wednesday.  

The irony, of course, is that Waupun Schools mandate masks and social distancing. Kids aren’t allowed to play with, or eat lunch with, kids from different classes. They can’t use the bubblers, share pencils, or touch each other. Yet, that’s the Waupun hot spot! 

Then there are the questions I can’t answer? How long do we live like this? What if the vaccine isn’t a cure-all? Will we shut down brick-and-mortar schools? Can we ever have plays, concerts, and other indoor gatherings, not to mention watching football? 

What I do know is that the people who are just done with COVID are becoming more vocal. In fact, I think the growing backlash to COVID protocols actually helped President Donald Trump and Republicans finish the campaign stronger than was expected. 

Yet, the folks who are genuinely concerned about COVID remain just as concerned, and the two groups are getting frustrated with, and blaming, the other. I’m concerned it’s going to rip our nice community apart. 

Personally, I see both sides. I know many people who’ve had COVID. Most felt like they had a bad cold for a few days. But I know three young and healthy people who’ve ended up hospitalized, and one is quite serious.  

On the other hand, I am living the hardship of having a small child at home, and knowing that WASD plans to be virtual quite a lot from Thanksgiving through the second week of 2021 is pushing me into the “just open up and let’s all get this thing camp!”

I’ve loved my time home playing teacher, but I’m not a teacher. My kids are falling behind from where they should be and staying home doesn’t pay the bills. 

The school administration, on the other hand, continues to make their full salary. 

I look with envy at the local private school, Central Wisconsin Christian, that has been able to remain open. But like I was told, who’s going to pay tuition for a school that’s closed?

I’m sure my observations are being repeated all over Wisconsin. It’s a Wisconsin being split in two: one where people need to go to work and school, and one where people want to hide from a virus. 

A virus whose most dangerous symptom is the tearing apart of our society.

Ron Bishop is the chairman of the Republican Party of Fond Du Lac County. The views expressed are his own.