Staying Home In A Pandemic
The truth can now be told that I was prepared to withdraw from society long before the pandemic struck. The sheer agony of traveling from my doorstep to wherever I was headed had become too overwhelming for me to face. A trip to the grocery store brought the challenge of a dark parking garage where people walked in front of your car or darted across the lane without ever even looking. A drive to get gas was always fraught with angst about tanks that were out of service after you pulled into an optimum space. And sharing the lane with bike riders on the avenue (it’s an avenue, not a side street) brought too much stress as you tried to avoid riders; some who followed the rules and some who didn’t. Being the person responsible for knowing if the bike would stop at the red light or take advantage of their ability to continue without signal or consideration of the rules of the road really isn’t fair to the person driving the car. But, it’s our burden to bear. The constant road construction caused delays and the delivery vendors double parked requiring you go around them by heading east in a westbound lane, hoping to not be in a head on collision as a result. Too many safety issues to face just to get the mail or a container of milk. Now they have something new. A sidewalk bump-out. Intended to make the driver go beyond the corner before turning and let me tell you, you run over that bump out once, you won’t do it again. I believe the purpose is allow a gathering of people to congregate at the corner before crossing. Who knows? And all this happens before I even leave my neighborhood. Once I hit the infamous I-95 traveling North or South, we are faced with driving the speed limit or only 5 miles over in a right-hand lane as being unacceptable. Another story for another time.
But it’s also the people. Head in the clouds. Texting while driving. Holding a phone in one hand while driving with another. Walking into traffic to force you to stop when you have the right of away. Walking their dog, texting, and not looking up. Can they hear you coming? You wonder. Riding their bikes between parked cars and cars in the traffic lane – because they can. I’ve always felt invisible in these city traffic situations.
So, when the pandemic came and we were told to stay home, I settled in and decided not to go out again until a vaccine was discovered. I don’t have to deal with darks garages and I don’t have to bob and weave to avoid the double parking, people in the road walking, bike riding interlopers on what used to be a rather pleasant trip to the store. Plus, I live in the city and there’s never a parking spot on my street so now if I don’t move my car, nobody will care. (Although they will call on your ass if you leave your car in one place too long).
However, 6 months have passed and I am feeling the heat from those who feel if I don’t go back out there, I am in for deep trouble when the time comes to interact with the public once again. So, I began a daily walk routine somewhere around 3 months in and I have hated every single solitary second of it. I wear my mask, of course, but people tend to not be all in on that in case you haven’t heard. They walk by you or jog by you like it’s just another day and we are not in the middle of a walking dead movie. Oh, they want to be so “I have to live my life” about it and that’s fine. But how about my life? So, each day I take these walks and go a little further and get a little braver and encounter a few more people, all from a distance, so I can get re-acclimated back into society. Holy crap. It’s hell I’m telling you.
I’d rather hit myself over the head with a heavy frying pan than mix with the world out there today. I have noticed that a walk that begins at 7:00 am encounters far fewer people than one that begins at 7:30.
I’ve also noticed on the days I have to go to the post office for work (let’s not address the post office issue here. There will be another post for that) that my blood pressure is a lot higher. During these walks, I can’t stop focusing on the lady with the dog and no mask who thinks I want to say hello to her. Read my eyes…back off.
But I have to admit the people who warned me to get out there were not off base, not one bit. I had a doctor’s appointment that couldn’t be avoided (you have to take care of yourself no matter how many people are going to drive too close on a bike) and it was not a pleasant experience. Mostly because I don’t know how to act anymore in public. How far to stay away. How concerned to get if someone walks too close as they are passing by. How loudly to scream if someone asks me for directions. Got to get there more to explore and accept normal routine. Even if it’s a new normal.
And I want to explore ways to help you smile. Life is short. And there’s a pandemic. Let’s not waste it. But I was wondering. How do you gauge the distance between you and a stranger? Do you tilt your head to the side, hold yourself a little in line with your shoulders, close one eye and guess how far away someone is? Do you use a ruler to measure the distance? I think there’s a market for pandemic distance rulers.