Before the pandemic, I took the subway in NYC all the time. It was always my first choice for transportation. Then there was the pandemic. If I needed to leave my neighborhood during the pandemic (usually only for a doctor’s appointment or the occasional Covid shot), I would resort to a bus or, sometimes, a taxi. Taxis have a very reassuring plastic barrier between the front seat and the backseat. As a senior citizen, I really appreciated that. It wasn’t that I was that concerned about Covid transmission on the train, since I knew ridership would be way down. I was much more concerned about crime. Fewer riders to me meant more possibilities for criminal behavior.
Since March 2020, and with all the dramatic news stories involving subway incidents, that concern hasn’t dissipated at all. I’ve spoken to some friends and acquaintances, who are also senior citizens, who don’t have any problem riding the subway. Although some said they’d seen passengers on the trains and platforms who looked a bit “unstable,” they said they were “harmless”.
I’m not sure I can summon the courage to see for myself and am wondering what it’s going to take to get me to go down those subway stairs again.
I don’t know about you but the past few months seem to me to have been full of even more bad news than usual. I was, and am, devastated by the stories and photographs coming out of Ukraine and this senseless war brought on by an autocrat. Add to that, there have been some extremely disturbing stories of New Yorkers who’ve been shot or knifed for no reason at all. And now we have the horrific news of the racist shooting at the supermarket in Buffalo and the unbelievable shooting at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. It’s interesting that Covid has been pushed out of the front part of my brain now, where it occupied a center seat for the past 2 years. I suppose that’s one benefit from all this otherwise gutting news.
I think often of how my parents must have felt watching the world spin out of control during the Great Depression and, later, Hitler’s advance through Europe. I suppose they did not have the relentless 24-hour news cycle and all the devices which keep us in constant touch with the headlines.
I have a group of friends who recently shared how they cope with all this. The answers were interesting. One person said she only listens to one newscast a day, the evening news at 11:00 pm. Another said she takes very long walks. A third said she cries. At this time, none of those remedies are ones I’ll adopt. But I don’t have any others. So my fate is simply to be very upset and wonder how this gets better.
There are, unquestionably, many benefits to volunteering. Some of the ones that are most often mentioned are: it provides you with a sense of purpose; it provides a sense of community; it teaches you valuable skills (including social skills). As a senior citizen, it helps you meet new friends and provides a bulwark against loneliness. That’s especially important during this pandemic, as many of us who are senior citizens are spending more time, isolated, at home.
I live in NYC and I’ve had various volunteer jobs over the years. Some lasted longer than others because some I enjoyed more than others.
I decided at the end of last year that I wanted to add a new volunteer commitment to my schedule so I Googled “volunteer opportunities”. I could search in countless ways for volunteer work (in NYC, in my neighborhood, by type of work, etc.). It was somewhat overwhelming.
Unquestionably, winter, and especially several days in a row of gray skies and precipitation, seem to make the pandemic worse –at least for me. I’ve felt like Bill Murray in the movie, “Groundhog Day”, more times than I can count. One friend on a Zoom call this afternoon remarked, “I just can’t tell what day of the week it is anymore.” Many others on the screen nodded in agreement.
I’m triple-vaxxed since late October but still haven’t seen a theatrical performance or even been to a museum since before March 2020 (although that may soon change now that Omicron cases in New York City have significantly dropped). I haven’t eaten inside a restaurant.
I’m not sure how one ventures back out into the world. But until I do resume many missing activities of my life, the dreariness of the pandemic, and the winter, make the days all seem the same.
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’m very grateful for all the Etsy shops selling masks now. I’ve bought a few with filter pockets and am inserting cut-up vacuum cleaner bags or Scott Shop towels. They seem to work just fine, fit snugly and let me continue to breathe through them.
My building requires everyone to mask-up in all public spaces: elevators, hallways, lobby, laundry room, mail room. So putting on a mask is as much a part of my apartment-leaving routine as taking my keys.
When I venture out for short walks on Riverside Drive, about 90% of the people during this week #8 are wearing masks. That percentage has certainly increased in the past few weeks, although there are a few people wearing them around their chins. It’s not clear what they’re thinking since there aren’t that many places in NYC where you’re not 6′ away from another human being. So having them constantly over your nose and mouth is certainly the way to go.
A stubborn group of non-mask-wearers are the runners who (mostly) don’t have them on. It’s also hard to stay out of their way when they run in the middle of the walkway. Maybe they haven’t heard the news that there’s a pandemic, or, as Governor Cuomo said, maybe they’re just selfish.
I’m hoping I’ll get used to the feeling of wearing a mask before those 90 degree high humidity days begin here in the city. Then wearing a mask on a cool spring day will seem pretty pleasant. No question that, as with most things and this pandemic, it can always be worse.
I got on the M72 bus last week on Broadway, heading east to York Avenue, pulled out my Kindle, and resumed reading a book I’m really enjoying. I was looking forward to the long ride and a good read. I found one of the coveted single seats on the right side of the bus and settled in. As luck would have it, 2 women sitting a few feet away in the handicapped seats behind the driver, resumed their conversation at a fairly high decibel level as soon as we pulled away from the curb.
I tried to read but it was difficult and I put my Kindle down in my lap. Mercifully, one of them got off at West 72nd Street and Central Park West. I was delighted as I swiped the bottom of the reader and resumed reading. But no sooner did one of the loud talkers get off, then I heard a women get on and immediately begin a conversation with the driver. “Uh oh,” I thought. This bodes ill.
She proceeds to swipe her card, sits down and then within seconds she begins a conversation in a very loud voice with a woman in the first single seat right ahead of me. I’m cooked. I grab my Kindle, abandon my seat and move further back in the bus.
This second women manages to keep up a loud steady stream of words as it heads all the way to York Avenue, although in doing so, she forgets to pull the cord to get off the bus at the stop before on First Avenue. She starts yelling at the driver to stop the bus so she can get off. The driver can’t and won’t do that. I chuckle to myself in the back of the bus.
Here’s the moral of this story: Don’t talk so loudly on the bus so other passengers get annoyed and wish you miss your stop.
It’s been raining so much in New York City lately that pretty soon we’ll need an ark. It rained with a particular vengence yesterday, which happened to be Mother’s Day. My family celebrated the occasion with a very nice lunch at a restaurant in Greenwich Village. Afterwards, I decided I would slosh my way uptown, or at least as far as the downpours and gusty winds would permit.
I actually made it to 34th Street, but during those 30-or-so blocks, I kept noticing how many people were walking around holding flowers –presumably for Mother’s Day–along with umbrellas.
So despite the gloom and sogginess of New York City yesterday (and today), the sidewalks and the subways were alive with color. Flowers don’t seem to have much of a scent anymore so their abundance didn’t help make the streets or subways more aromatic. But, that aside, it was extremely nice to have them to help cheer everyone up from the gloom and rain, including, I’m sure, all the mothers who ultimately received them.
There are many recommendations for how to improve your level of happiness. I think one easy one is simply to be kind to someone else. Sometimes it takes just the smallest gesture, like holding open a door, giving up your seat on the subway or bus, letting someone with a few items at the checkout get ahead of you if you have a cart full, picking up something that’s fallen for someone whose arms are full. These are really just a few.
I’d like to think that I’m helping to raise the level of civility in society today, which is sorely in need of it.
The next time you do something, just spend an extra second thinking about how the ‘thank you’ of the person you helped made you feel. Nice, huh?