One of the great discoveries for many of us these past 18 months of the pandemic has to be the marvels of Zoom. For those of us who are retired and not needing to be part of a virtual office, it has allowed us to safely take classes, participate in all sorts of cultural and religious events and, most importantly, stay connected to friends and family.
For me, it has allowed for a get-together with cousins (one of whom I’ve never met and several whom I haven’t seen in years) living all over the country. We live in blue states and red states and pretty much cover all the possible time zones in the country.
Conversing with first cousins who remember some of your most embedded childhood memories, of people and places, is remarkable. Meeting first cousins for the first time is also amazing.
It’s a silver lining of the pandemic and I’m looking forward to it ending, once and for all, to be able to meet or get together again, in person. Finally.
If, like me, you read a newspaper –or 2, watch or listen to the news, get emails and push notifications from reliable news organizations, listen to news podcasts (also reliable), or get emails or texts from family members or friends, you’re probably getting Covid updates many times in a day. Some may contain new and important information for you personally. Some of it you’ve heard a zillion times before. And some of it, frankly, seems to contradict other disseminated information.
“ENOUGH!”, I mutter, as I yank my ear buds out if I’m listening to a news podcast or slam down the lid of my laptop, if I’m reading a newspaper online. I’m Covided-out!
My news blackout period holds until I receive the next push notification on my phone on, you guessed it, Covid.
Here it is the end of August 2021. A year ago, I was an unvaccinated senior citizen. I would venture out of my apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan wearing 2 masks, with a face shield in my bag, just in case. If only there could be a vaccine, I thought.
And then there was a vaccine.
My second Moderna vaccination was on February 13, 2021. I’m about to begin the 7th month into my vaccine efficacy. Recent news reports suggest that it’s dropped significantly from the 90% or so of protectiveness I might have had two weeks after the second vaccination. At 8 months, I’ll apparently be eligible for a booster.
With that waning effectiveness, I’m now pulling out my pile of masks and, once again, wearing them. A lot. I’ll often wear two in any indoor setting (store, doctor’s office). Yesterday, I even put on a face shield over two masks when I rode on a NYC bus after the driver allowed a maskless man to board and remain unmasked for his 20 minute ride. People glared at him but he was indifferent. No one had the courage to tell him to wear a mask, such is the fear of mask rage. When I got home, I sent a complaint to the MTA about the incident and they responded saying that they “would notify the NYPD”. Good luck, I thought.
So here we all are. To quote the famous Yoga Berra line. “It’s like deja vu all over again.”
With all the bicycles and scooters coming at you, from all directions, on city streets and sidewalks, you’d think it’s safer to walk in the park. Think again. It’s apparently the Wild West there, too.
A few days ago, as I was taking a morning walk along the east side of Riverside Drive, adjacent to Riverside Park, I forgot to look behind me when I moved over a few feet to the left to avoid a fallen tree branch. I heard a bicycle bell and and then felt the rush of air of the first bicycle as it whizzed by me, narrowly missing my left side by a few inches. A second bicycle followed, again narrowly missing me. These folks weren’t just leisurely pedaling along. They were going at breakneck speed.
I definitely think there’s a market in New York City for eyeglasses with rear-and-side-view mirrors.
I do worry that pedestrians are losing ground against cyclists here. I heard on the news this morning that Democratic Mayoral candidate Eric Adams is also an avid cyclist. Perhaps we also need full body armor.
I live on the Upper West Side in New York City, near Riverside Park, one of the city’s most beautiful parks. There’s no question that my daily walks through Riverside Park during the pandemic’s lockdown were how I managed to enjoy a regular exercise routine. Those walks also helped keep me from feeling isolated.
However, last spring and summer, like most New Yorkers, I wore two masks outdoors all the time. I’d walk past blooming trees and bushes in the spring and couldn’t smell their fragrance. I remember once taking a walk after a drenching spring rainstorm and, with no one around, briefly removed both masks to inhale the smell of the wet earth and trees. It was truly a memorable moment.
Now, however, since I’m vaccinated, I’m not wearing any mask outside, and the smell of the park’s trees, flowers and earth are everywhere on my walks.
It’s extraordinary how the many deprivations caused by the pandemic cause us to appreciate what we have in ways we may never have before.
I think pedestrian safety in NYC is an oxymoron. Try crossing the street, for instance. Even in a crosswalk, with the light, a bicyclist or someone on a scooter will likely be zipping towards you at breakneck speed. And won’t be stopping, just because you have the light and he doesn’t. Hopefully, he’ll swerve and not hit you.
It’s actually pretty outrageous.
Nor is reckless behavior of bicyclists or scooter drivers confined to the streets. These days you can find them on the sidewalks as well. Many times, they’re delivery guys aiming to get their motorized bikes back to the restaurant that’s dispatched them. They get up on the sidewalk for the last leg of their trip to park in front of the restaurant’s front door.
I know friends who walk on the sidewalk and look all around them before “changing lanes” to move left or right, in case they’d be moving into the lane of a bike or scooter. We’re talking sidewalks now, not streets.
Whatever happened to the saying that ‘pedestrians have the right of way’. Not anymore.
From March 2020 until a few weeks ago, I would see some people in New York City wearing the infamous “chin mask” and quietly steam. That seemingly pointless mask practice irritated me beyond words. Most of us learned from news stories about people who commented on mask-wearing practices (or non-mask-wearing practices) and were then needing to recover from punches to their own faces or worse. So I took the prudent way out with those idiots and adjusted my own mask more snugly.
Now, with mask requirements falling away in New York City, many of us are breathing outside air again with no masks. I can’t even begin to say how wonderful it is to smell the grass and plants in Riverside Park. Of course, that’s the maskless outside walk.
What about inside? Most stores I walk past here still have mask signs in front and, honestly, even if they didn’t, I couldn’t imagine walking into any without a mask over my nose and mouth. But what do you do with it while you’re just walking around outside and until you go into a store or building? Why, you wear it on your chin, of course.
It’s taken me 14 months of constantly wearing a mask in New York City (sometimes 2, and sometimes 2 with a face shield over them both) but I consider grabbing my mask as routine as grabbing my keys.
It will be nothing short of unsettling to not wear one in public and I’ll have to build up to that. Perhaps I’ll start by not wearing one when I take out the trash to the cans on my floor. Only twice in 14 months have I encountered another person when I do that. So that’s not really going to raise my pulse rate.
Not wearing one in the elevator, however, will be a giant leap forward. Probably when I graduate to that level of insouciance, I will be just about ready for the street. Imagine seeing peoples’ mouths and noses again. Then I’ll try not to fixate on their exhalations and, God forbid, sneezes or coughs. This will take some getting used to.
I was shopping at my local supermarket on the Upper West Side in Manhattan when all of a sudden I felt something hit the right side of my body. I immediately turned away from the bread shelf and looked towards the origins of the impact. And there, within inches from me, was another person! It was close physical contact in the time of Covid 19 and, even worse, the person who bumped into me wasn’t wearing a mask! He immediately apologized and asked if I was OK. But I would happily have done without an apology and preferred that he keep his maskless mouth shut.
I had on a mask, and my 2nd vaccination was 6 weeks before, but that doesn’t mean that I’m comfortable being a breath away from a maskless stranger inside a building.
In my pre-vaccinated days, for the times when I needed to be inside that same supermarket, I wore 2 masks and a face shield. I stopped wearing the face shield 2 weeks after my 2nd vaccine but this incident had me thinking whether that extra layer of the face shield would give me that added comfort level. Then I tried to remember that I’d had the vaccine. I reminded myself that even if I got Covid from this maskless stranger, it would be a mild case.
I’m simply amazed at people who either aren’t sure whether they’ll roll up their sleeves for the shot or have decided that they won’t. I do wonder, though, whether I’d ever again go outside my apartment without a mask.
As many of us come out from our pandemic cocoons, one positive thing to some out of this past year is a heightened appreciation of some of the mundane things we likely took for granted.
Experiencing some of these very basic routines back in the world after I’ve been vaccinated has really been a wonderful experience. I had made very brief forays into a supermarket in Manhattan a number of times this year, but, now vaccinated, I didn’t feel the need to wear a face shield over 2 masks and be finished shopping in under 10 minutes. I actually strolled around the aisles pushing a shopping cart. I didn’t bother with the face shield over my 2 masks. It felt so liberating.
The other re-enactment of my past life came when I got on an M5 bus a few days ago. Once again, the experience was so much nicer than I can ever recall it being.
Friends I know have certainly been freer about going into supermarkets or riding mass transit this past year. But since I hadn’t, revisiting these past basic experiences felt positively delightful.
Like everyone else, it will be incredible when more of New York City is vaccinated and we really do go back to our pre-pandemic lives. Until then, though, I’m savoring the rediscovery of so many of my former routines.