Made you look, didn’t I? No, things are not good right now, generally and comprehensively speaking. In fact, pretty much everything, in every respect, is basically as bad as we could have conceived of it ever getting. Although (and it’s true) things could always get worse; frankly, they still might. But there are glimmers at the end of this dreary tunnel. Even Governor Cuomo is starting to mention it might be time to at least start thinking about getting this big lug of a city back up and running again.
But in the meantime, haven’t you noticed a few things, trifling as they may be, that have improved over the past month? First, in accordance with the six-foot distancing policies, people are getting out of one another’s way on sidewalks. There is some serious trajectory-avoidance going on; I have not been run into since this began, which used to happen on a daily basis pre-COVID. People are certainly respecting each other’s space now, both for their own safety and the greater good.
A brief respite from construction noise has brought an unprecedented quiet to the city streets, which for me, erupted daily from the Chelsea Hotel’s dinosaur-era hydraulic lift rumbling up and down all day long. I’m sympathetic to the loss of work, and realize it’s just postponement, but it’s brilliant not to awaken to a cacophany of drills and rotohammers.
People are cooking more, which is almost definitively healthier, and it’s also a great skill to learn, or re-learn, as the case may be. Making your own food can be comforting, connecting, fun and inherently rewarding. That said, I will be on the front line of the cheerleaders when the restaurants reopen, raring for something other than my own cooking, which reminds me daily how much I love, appreciate and worship the chefs of New York City, the greatest in the world.
And maybe you haven’t gotten a haircut in a while, or your nails done. All those expensive salon treatments now seem somewhat frivolous: were they that important, in the grand scheme of things? Isn’t maybe that money better spent elsewhere? Those kind of treatments (emphasis on “treat”) might become a little less mandatory now, or at least we’ll appreciate them as luxury when salons reopen.
The Human Voice
Speaking of appreciation, remember how much love you felt for whoever held that grocery store door open for you, saving you from its potential contamination? Remember that courtesy, which you can return by letting a few more people through every door opened. The less people touch it, the better. All this heightened hygiene-conscientiousness could curtail subsequent cold and flu seasons and their intensities, resulting in less sniffly-achey maladies overall. I’ve even been thanking the grocery store stockists, mail deliverers, pretty much any one doing anything productive that I surely took for granted prior. Did you thank the shelf-stocker today at Trader Joe’s?
Plus, have you gotten any phone calls lately? When did THAT happen before - people actually picking up the phone - and using it AS a phone? Isn’t it nice to hear a voice, get the humanity of vocal correspondence rather than a litany of jumbled typos and arbitrary emojis? Texts have their time and place, but there is something sacred and connective about the human voice, and connection right now is a coveted commodity.
What I haven’t been getting is a lot of campaign calls, another bonus. I still see random Facebook ads or unsolicited email plea for donations, but normally this would be the time for frenzied political stumping, and it has been blissfully sparse. Even though right now, electing the right people is going to be life-alteringly crucial, and I wouldn’t mind hearing a bit more from who’s who and what they’re going to do.
The air seem cleaner, and it’s not just my imagination. From Houston to Wuhan, air quality has improved since COVID-19 reared its ugly face, and this effect may also have the added benefit of reducing respiratory illnesses that perpetuate the virus’s morbidity.
And maybe more than anything, people seem nicer. Whether it is in the name of self-preservation or actual thoughtfulness, I don’t really care. It’s lovely. People smile at one another as they run essential errands, their faces not buried in their phones. Yes, they’re obfuscated by masks, N95 or makeshift contraptions of coffee filters with rubber bands, but you can see a crinkle around the eyes, an upwardly-shifted cheek. While it may be commiseratory rather than joyful, a smile is a smile, and I’ll take it. And I will give it right back to you.