I would like to preface this with the idea that lunchtime has always been a great way for me to separate the day between morning and evening. And it’s not just what you eat; it’s where and with whom. But all of this changed when the month of March came around in the year 2020. Everything closed and everyone was told to stay home; unless you were essential. Even still, there were warnings and mandates and news about the upticks of infections.
It’s amazing to see the differences between them and now. Then again, it’s amazing to think about the ideas of a life before the pandemic or life as it is now, post-pandemic, or “where we are now,” which of course is an interesting thought.
I cannot begin to recognize the old places anymore nor can I fathom the emptiness of the stores which used to be open. It is also amazing to see the stages of business and how companies had to shed their skin before scaling down to be nothing more than completely naked.
I will say the City is not as vacant as it was. The traffic is coming back. This is the one thing that I didn’t miss. I didn’t miss the crowds or my levels of impatience when walking through the street. I didn’t miss being hit or “walked into” by mindless people with eyes down on their cell phones unaware that there’s a great big world going on at the same time and then BAM! No excuse me. No nothing; just a side-eye look as if to say, “You shouldn’t have been in my way!”
I can remember the emptiness of the Avenues. I can remember the barrenness of the stores and the closed storefronts. Or worse, I can remember being one of the so-called “essentials” and arriving at work to notice that the offices were empty.
Items on the desks were dated at the date of the shutdown, which was initially supposed to last around two weeks (maybe). This went on for a long time. I could see where people left their coats or where people left a second pair of shoes beneath their desk which, of course; they remained as they were, untouched and unmoved like an eerie reminder that “this” person might never be back.
This all went down without a warning. At least not a real one and, just like that, everything was shut down. No one was in the commercial parts in the City. There was a misunderstanding of terms; there was a mistrust for what was going on at the time and, sincerely, there was a big disbelief that this was actually happening.
There were people who argued if Covid was real or if this was some kind of governmental hoax. To be clear, I never enter my political opinion nor is this the place to start.
More importantly, my intention is to describe my City and what she looked like when the world was shut down.
I tell you, I could have walked down the center of Lexington Avenue and not been touched by a car. I could have taken a nap in the middle of 42nd Street and been safe as a kitten.
Everything changed. Nothing was open. It was hard to find a good plate of food during lunch time. Then, of course, the news was filled with death and hatred. We saw violence. We saw looting. We saw racial divisions. We saw the media at its best and reporting at its worst.
We saw the separation between the Left and the Right. Or perhaps to be nonpartisan, I will also say that we saw the separation between the Right and the Left. In the surrealness of this crazy time; this was really happening.
Politics had become the new religion and policy became the commandments of our so-called political gods; in which case, the wars were less about which gods do you pray to and more about what president did you vote for.
I remember walking through a building which used to see thousands of attendees on a daily basis and yet, there was nothing. There was no one. There was only the sad and quiet stages of impending doom that coincided with the reports in the news about the death tolls.
I can remember seeing a friend at work and asking him, “So, how does it feel to be an ‘essential’ worker?”
Little did I know about his recent loss of a friend. And little did I know about his supervisors who were playing team captains and quarterbacking the game from home in their pajamas.
My friend corrected me and said, “I think you mean to use the word ‘sacrificial,’ right?”
This was a man who worked in the field of mass-transit to which he promised, “As soon as my paperwork comes through, that’s it! I’m retiring!”
(I’m happy to say that he did retire and that he found a new life for himself. My friend went back to culinary school and now, he couldn’t be happier.)
It’s safe to say that this put a separation in our society that was unforeseen and unexpected. Also safe to say, there are moments which can never be rewound or revisited; and yes, here we are.
So, what are we going to do about it?
Do you know what my favorite part of the workday is?
I think there is something incredibly bonding about food. To be clear, lunchtime can be fun times. Not everything has to be expensive. Not all meals have to be from a five-star restaurant, which is fine and certainly tasty.
But no, I think the socialization and the connectivity of people sitting together and enjoying a meal is more than just a simple thing. To me, this is a connection that can never be taken away. This is a valuable time of day to bond, reconnect, laugh or try new foods. This is also a great way to keep our heads in the workplace – so we don’t “lose it” so-to-speak.
There was a sushi place which, in the pre-pandemic phases, was hustling and bustling with different dishes and plates – there was even a special corn on the cob dish that was absolutely unbelievable.
The steakhouses were closed. The fast food places were open and, yes, there were challenges to have employees wear a mask. Sure, there were kids who thought it was funny to run around in supermarkets pretending to cough on people.
Yep, that happened.
There was a separation that occurred, which proved to me that there is one undeniable truth: There is no real preparation for life. Sometimes, life takes on a war-like setting beyond a biblical proportion and yet, you can see where we lost ourselves. It is clear how we would respond at a moment like this. It is also clear that we have to learn from our past so that our past will never happen again.
All I know is that the separation broke me. I was broken due to the distance. I was broken after watching the news and hearing about the body count. I was broken because I was missing a piece of myself. There was a part of me that was missing and I was hurting.
I admit to this.
I admit to the struggles and the challenges of my depression, especially at this time.
There was no warmth from the hand and no one saw each other. We hardly spoke. We hardly knew what was happening or what would happen next.
I am not sure if we are free from this thing we call Covid or am I sure that something like this will ever take place again in my lifetime.
However, I do know this.
We cannot regain the time we lost during the shutdown.
Nope. That time is gone. But, we can rebuild what we have to laugh a little, love a little more, and enjoy ourselves with say, a good meal and a good laugh, so that we can nurture our bellies as well as our hearts and create a plan on how we’ll move forward.
I don’t say that it’s over . . .
I’m just saying that now is a good time to start living again