Wearing a Mask (or 2) Again!

Masking up again! Even with 2 vaccinations.

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.”

Pedestrians and Bicycles

I’m oblivious. Will I get hit?

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.

Not Wearing a Mask Outside!

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.

Pedestrian Safety in NYC

Trying to Cross the Street in NYC

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.

My Chin Mask

My Chin Mask

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.

What…I wouldn’t need to wear a mask?!?

A big change is coming.

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.

No question.

Oh No! He Bumped Into Me!

Being Bumped by a Maskless Stranger!

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.

Getting on a NYC Bus Again!

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.

NYC and Covid

Except for a few years spent in England and New Haven, CT, I’ve lived in NYC all my life. I also spent all of the past year during the pandemic here — hunkered down on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. I tried to walk every day, weather permitting, but almost all of my masked walks were within 2 miles of my apartment.

It was truly painful and depressing to see the storefronts becoming vacant on any of my walks along the commercial streets of the Upper West Side. Mercifully, I haven’t seen too many new ones becoming dark in the past few months. The greatest decline seemed to happen in the spring and summer last year, as New York City was struggling with Covid. At times, that struggle almost seemed like a death spiral.

Things definitely seem to be on the upswing now that at least about a quarter of us are vaccinated and there’s the current promise of more vaccines and much expanded vaccination appointments.

The American Rescue Plan Act is also a significant life preserver in many categories, including offering meaningful small business assistance.

I hope that the next Mayor of the City prioritizes its economic revival. It would be nice to have a bustling city again.

Getting the Covid Vaccine!

I got my 2nd Covid vaccination early in the morning of Saturday, February 13th at the Armory in Manhattan. It goes without saying, it was an enormous relief. I was looking forward to that day for a year.

I’m now 3 weeks past that date, with the awareness that I have about a 95% efficacy against getting Covid. At least the old form of Covid, that’s been around since last winter. But these new variants are worrisome. So, even fully vaccinated, my life looks and feels pretty much the same as it did before.

I’m still walking around with 2 masks and put over them a face shield whenever I walk into a store. I try not to go into stores if I can help it and, when I do, I don’t stay very long. My Purell bottle is always in a pocket of my coat.

I haven’t eaten inside or outside in a NYC restaurant in over a year and will not be joining other New Yorkers at the movies or in museums, when they are allowed in at modest percentages.

Like most of us, I wonder when we’ll ever be able to go back to the way it was.