As our stores, restaurants, and cities are opening, we must also take more precaution on our streets. In my neighborhood, some shop owners expressed a hesitancy to enforce wearing masks without a rule posted anywhere, especially with the NYPD. I made these signs for my bodega guys and for anyone else who needs it. I’m hopeful a sign helps create a policy backed by the business owner to create safety for my local community.
Relatedly, I politely queued outside my local deli while awaiting unmasked police officers to exit. When some new unmasked police were entering, I mentioned I had been waiting awhile for a safe time to enter and kindly requested they wear masks. The response from one NYPD member was:
Download and post these posters in your window to show your community you support your local black community. Each day I see a new banner out my window and it changes how I feel about my home, street, and neighborhood: activated and safe. If you have a printer, share a few extras with your neighbors.
By now it’s clear the world will be very different tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. What we don’t know is how. I’m writing this to help future me have a record what the past was like. I want to remember this turning point or later know if I was foolish to think this was the moment when everything changed.
The proverbial watercooler
I started optionally working from home on March 2, 2020. I immediately went stir crazy and visited the office and gym a few times. The few half days I went to the office, work felt business as usual with extra Purell. There was more signage in the bathrooms about washing your hands for two happy birthdays. Coworking spaces are so high traffic, it was hard to feel like it mattered.
At yoga, I got a few funny looks when I insisted on using lysol wipes instead of whatever is in those spray bottles. I never really liked the used rag method, but I guess no one wants to lug their own yoga mat around dirty NYC.
Zero feet apart weekends
That Friday, March 6, 2020, I had a date with someone I had been seeing for a bit. It was hard not to talk about anything but Coronavirus. Even when the topic shifted to something positive, there was a heavy weight in the air. Even his pup was stressed out. Eventually, I suggested I go home. In your 30s, Friday date nights are hard even when a pandemic isn’t looming. I stayed up feeling low until 3am watching Jessica become Messica.
Saturday morning, friends who live on my street hosted a bagel brunch. Like any New York home hang, we were shoulder to shoulder. “Six feet apart” wasn’t in the daily dialogue yet. Someone I met at brunch invited me to join a dinner with more friends in the neighborhood. I enthusiastically said yes. Needless to say, that dinner never happened.
That night, I rode the subway to LIC. No gloves, no mask, no fear. My eyes were shamelessly glued to my phone, watching the finale of Love is Blind. I almost wished the ride was longer, just to finish the episode.
I met friends for dinner at Adda Cantine. We squished six to a table and shared a single travel size Purell bottle. “Covid Nineteen” was in the air. Some friends at dinner practice medicine, so of course I asked how worried we should be. All logic pointed to staying home– but still, we went out. From one squeeze to another, we piled into a Lyft, back to Brooklyn.
Daniel Bell was playing at Public Records. A remarkable artist at a tasteful club. If you’ve been there before, you know they graciously cater to a slightly more mature demographic, which includes placing a high value on keeping hydrated. Friends pulled clean tin cups from the community stack and dispensed water from the tap. I wonder if we’ll bring our own cups in the future.
We’re very lucky no one got sick. I say the following because we were so fortunate. I’m glad I went out dancing. We shouldn’t have. But it seems like I might not get to move my body in a large gathering for a long time. It’s something I need, it gives me energy.
I bumped into a few friends there. One being a promising young designer I met at a Carbon 5 mentor night. She had just gotten her first job and finally had health insurance. I hope she’s still employed, I should look her up. I left early, though. The BPM wasn’t picking up and I liked the idea of a good night’s sleep — ok fine, the finale of Love is Blind, was calling me.
On the other side of Brooklyn, my brother was DJing a party in Bushwick. At the time, opportunities to hear him play in a night club felt like great abundance. Bushwick was far, and I wanted to lay down. Read the quote. It was the best gig he’s had in NYC.
I wish I was there. I regret going home. Netflix and early bedtimes are painfully abundant now.
That Wednesday, March 12, I went for dinner with some coworkers to celebrate a new teammate joining. We considered canceling and thought to keep one last hurrah. Upon entering the restaurant, I forgot all the rules and side hugged my new teammate and sat zero feet apart from another. That’s was the last time I made contact with people.
I’m not sure when I’ll dance with friends again, or meet for dinner, go on a date, or stroll to my neighbor’s house. Heck, I can’t even predict when I’ll hug someone again.
All of these things will happen. But New York will be different. I’ll be different.
Isolation is not for New Yorkers
I won’t sugar coat it. It’s scary in New York right now. What I know is my friends and family are staying home, washing their hands, and keeping a distance if they have to go out. If the numbers get worse, there’s not a whole lot more we can do. The only way out is through.
Friends and family are asking how I’m doing. I don’t know how to answer this question. Bad? Fine? Hangin’ in there? We’re all living through this pandemic, with our own unique challenges. What’s less visible to the rest of the world, is what transplant New Yorkers signed up for when they moved here.
In a few hundred square feet, I sleep, where I eat, where I work and design, where I exercise, and where I write. Most of us don’t have spare bedrooms, porches, back yards, garages, cars, and now barely the subway. The promise of moving to New York is the gift of walking out your door with the entire world at your finger tips.
My situation is not worse than yours. But every morning I wake up and I am exactly where I’ll be, with nowhere to go but inside.