As we all adjust to our new existence, every day brings new revelations and experiences about our world. Sure, there’s the big stuff you get 24/7 online, on TV and via conversations with friends which seem to have only one topic. However there’re a multitude of smaller things that also make an impression. I’m sure some have struck you. Following are some of those that have made a mark on me.
My wife and I have always been walkers. Almost daily for years she would routinely go out every day alone or with friends, me as often as my schedule would permit. On a walk together on a typical day, we might pass one, maybe two people at most. Now when we go out it’s as if half our neighborhood is out for a stroll. We see people we haven’t seen in years, adult children we last saw at 8-year-old birthday parties and a fair number of strangers we don’t know but who turn out to live just down the street.
While there are new ways of working, there seems to be an all or nothing level of engagement. Some people can’t seem to work more or harder: health care workers to be sure, but also delivery people, those tending to our new online existence, and those working at grocery stores and pharmacies. Meanwhile, others have ground to a halt: restaurants, retail and entertainment to name a few. We see it in our own house — one of our sons works in the field of global health, and couldn’t be busier, while my world of live events is in suspended animation.
A drive to the city to pick up the aforementioned child was an Orwellian experience. A rush hour trip on a weekday night took the shortest time ever to traverse some of the busiest highways and bridges in the region. In addition to they’re being no cars on the road nor people walking next to it, every highway sign flashed a Big Brother-esque message of “Stay Home! Save Lives” or the more pithy “#stopthespread.”
People are still getting married, though adjustments are being made. There are stay-at- home weddings, with the couple and officiant being the only ones in the room. The society columns still cover the events, though each announcement carries a disclaimer, as if without that one would think they were violating current protocol, to wit: “The couple had originally planned to wed at the Champagne Powder Room before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that events with 50 or more be postponed.”
A trip to the grocery store has a whole new set of routines — restricted entrance, disinfecting the cart, the suspension of the reusable bag edict as well as the ability to recycle, plastic shields between checkout people and customers as if you were in a bank. There’s also a rearranging of priorities. Formerly, at one store, the small stuff that was easily shopliftable, such as batteries and razor blades, was kept behind the register at the courtesy counter. That has all been moved out front and put in easy reach so that fewer hands have to be involved. And that vacant and more secure space behind the counter is now occupied by what is really of value, packages of toilet paper.
My 89-year-old mother has an apartment in an adult community, one which thrives on social interaction. She is fine, though isolated, as we can no longer visit and she can no longer roam the halls to go to the in-house lunchroom, library and other activities. They deliver food to her, and she has things to read and watch to keep her occupied. But short of calls, she is cut off. But the other day, there was a knock on the door. As it wasn’t mealtime, she was confused. She opened her door to find a small flowering plant outside her door, with a note saying it was from the staff. A little taste of spring to a vulnerable population who have seen a lot, but never seen this.
Of course, there’s more. Seeing your neighborhood at walk speed vs. a drive-by. Cleaning out shelves and drawers to find old pieces of your life. “Zoomtail” hour with friends. As Alice said to the Queen of Hearts, “What a strange world we live in.”
Marc Wollin of Bedford is trying to take it all in. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at http://www.glancingaskance.blogspot.com/, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.