This is the first year in more than three decades that I’m able to spend any substantial time outside without suffering considerably from the effects of hay fever.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been allergic to pretty much everything that starts growing in the spring. Even with daily doses of Allegra or Claritin or Flonase or myriad other pharmaceutical solutions, I had to keep the windows closed from the middle of March until Memorial Day. That meant no walks or bike rides around the neighborhood or nearby parks. I had to keep the air flow in my car set to recycle. I’ve had to hire landscapers to mow our lawn because just a couple of whiffs of newly-cut grass made my sinuses open right up.

But this year, everything’s different. It’s not that the pollen counts are lower. I still get a daily email alerting me to how high the potential allergen numbers are, and they’ve been in line with previous years. I can’t chalk it up to mask-wearing, because I didn’t keep covered while outside. I can’t give credit to the vaccines, because this change happened before I even got my first jab.

Perhaps it’s an age thing, or the passage of time. After all, I didn’t have any allergies when I was young, but they began to hit me — hard — at some point in my late twenties. Maybe I’ve now outgrown them. Whatever the cause, I’m thrilled to be able to enjoy springtime again and do more than sit inside looking at one screen or another.

I’m more than happy to get out of the house for any reason. For example, when I noticed a few days ago that the decade-old shade on one of the lamps in our patio room had gotten moldy, I immediately told my wife, “I’ll go to Lowe’s to buy a new one right now!” And we were actually able to walk around the Missouri Botanical Garden last week without so much as a sniffle!

Hay fever notwithstanding, my guess is that a lot of people are experiencing similar urges. There’s a mental health aspect to this pandemic that’s not discussed widely enough. Judging by the growing numbers of people I now encounter in the Outside World, there’s a palpable desperation for fresh air and different surroundings after spending so much of the last year looking at the same walls and furniture.

That shouldn’t cause anyone to act recklessly by going maskless in public indoor spaces, ignoring social distancing rules, or considering the coronavirus crisis over. But running errands to purchase something in a store instead of waiting for it to be delivered to the front door — and driving there with my elbow out the window while inhaling some fresh air?

Hell, yes! And think of how much I’m saving by not buying Kleenex by the pallet!