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Thursday, May 21, 2020

What Day Is Today?

Not a great week, so far.  No surprises there.

I'm vacillating between mostly coping and thinking rationally and, well, this...



Today I can joke. Not so much a day or so ago. Maybe not tomorrow. Saturday? Maybe.

But things are getting better.  Where I am, wherever you are, and even in really faraway places.  We're reopening, slowly and cautiously.
Knowing that, helps.

One of my coping techniques through this has been to watch webcams all over the world. I started watching them early on, to confirm what I was hearing: that the world was shut down. Empty beaches in Florida, Paris with no people, the Abbey Road camera with no one acting the fool as they imitated the famous Beatles scene (on a regular pre-pandemic day, Abbey Road is filled with scads of people trying not to get hit by vehicles as they walk across the famous zebra stripes while their friend takes their picture.)
I would watch these webcams intently, looking for any sign of life.

In the beginning of this nightmare, there was nothing on the webcams. It really did feel like what we all imagined as little kids when we would ask each other what if you were the only person left in the world. And that really wasn't helping my already regularly persnickety and cantankerous mental state.  Still, like any good glutton for punishment, I kept going back to them for confirmation that the world was literally at a standstill.  After some weeks I would start to see little bits of life. A few more cars on the roadways. Someone riding their bike near the beach. And, bonus! , even the occasional Beatles reenactor on Abbey Road. The other night - during a bout of what is now regular 3am-ish insomnia - I tuned into the Times Square cameras and there were a good amount of people milling about and even a skateboarder or two. They all probably had insomnia, too, but regardless it was great to see people again in NYC and every/anywhere else.

So this is the kind of thing that helps me deal, helps my mood.  I watch all of my favorite webcams and think See?  Things are getting better. Look at all the people.

And then I went outside to walk Luna.
Because of this pandemic, we give people wide berths while walking the dog.  I think I've actually written about this before.  So when I stepped out the door of my building and saw a man up the block a few buildings away coming our way, I waited. My car is parked immediately in front of our building so I just leaned up against it while holding Luna's leash so that she couldn't move from next to my legs & then the man could easily and comfortably walk past us.  From the short distance between us, I knew he could see me, could see what I was doing, see that I was doing my best to be courteous.

And here's what he did in response:


Seriously.
He walked into the street 100% to avoid us as if we were lepers. Pariahs. Typhoid Mary & her little 10 lb ferocious dog.
You can tell by my highly accurate, almost scientifically detailed aerial-view drawing that he had more than enough room to pass safely in front of us with no real threat to life nor limb.

Right, wrong or indifferent, I got mad.
I didn't want to be fair-minded and think oh Sharon, you know people are all kinds of weirded out right now, let it go even though that was (is?) probably the right way to think.
I stomp-walked Luna up the street, stewing about this, telling myself to calm down and not take it personally.

And then on our way back I saw the same man coming our way.

Only now he was carrying a pizza from the pizza place around the block.

The pizza place where he would have had to at least stand close enough to someone to be handed his pizza for curbside pickup.

So then I got mad all over again.
And I hogged the sidewalk.
And I might have even done a little bit of glaring. But maybe not,  I definitely did can't say for sure.

Not a perfect reaction to be sure.  But a human one. Mother Teresa I am not.


I wish I could say this was an isolated incident but I can't because it isn't.
JP says it happens to him almost every morning as he walks to his car to leave for work by a lady who is walking her dog. She walks herself and her dog into the street just to avoid walking anywhere near him. We don't have skinny little sidewalks. There's plenty of room for people to pass each other safely.  It makes me wonder what these people do when they have to go to the grocery store.  They might be people limiting at the grocery store, but are the people social distancing once inside?  Not so much.

(I should clarify that where we live people are out all over the place. Even at the beginning of all of this at the height of things there were people walking to get takeout or walking their dogs or walking to their cars or maybe just walking to not go insane. We don't live in suburbia, we live in a populous downtown area in a small city. Seeing people and passing them on the sidewalk is a given here.)

I get it, I get this fear.  I certainly don't want anyone too close to me either.  But I do want to be able to still connect with people, to be close enough to them so I can smile at them with my eyes because my mask is hiding my real smile. You can see a pair of smiling eyes from six feet away, for sure.
I like when people smile at me and there've been times when someone's smile really did turn my day around.  What happens if we lose that - connecting with a simple smile?

The man who walked around my car and onto a busy city street to avoid me and the woman with the dog who did the same thing to JP both had the option to at least wave or say a friendly hello.
Neither of them did and that's what made the difference.  Does that make sense?

We can't lose our humanity on top of everything else to this thing.

So here's a small idea:  go to McDonald's today, order a couple of apple pies.  When you get to the pickup window, tell the clerk the pies are for the car behind you.  Or do it at Starbucks.  That's where my daughter did it recently. Or Burger King, Sonic, Wendy's, Dunkin', Panera, Chick Fil A, Arby's, KFC...they all have some cheap menu stuff you can show some kindness with.

And wave a friendly hello to the people in your immediate vicinity.

Who knows?  It could be mood changing. For them, for you, or maybe for both.
And really human.

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