June 10, 2020

Heading Into Chapter Two of the Coronavirus Pandemic

I know the coronavirus pandemic isn't over yet. But it kind of feels over. People are acting like it's over.

At first, it was characterized by a precious emptiness—at least on the freeways.

Though never on the sidewalks—at least, not in my neighborhood.

With everything canceled, I felt I tremendous amount of freedom from my own schedule—finally liberated to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, as long as it didn't involve the indoors or other people.

It felt like the month of March would never end, even as the calendar indicated that we'd already passed into April, May, June.

Back before things started opening up again, I was just fine with what may have looked desolate to other people. The world was my oyster.

It felt much like my early days first visiting Southern California, when I'd just drive around to look at stuff. I'd just go exploring to see what I could find.

Sometimes during the shutdown, which restricted travel to essential purposes only, it was essential for me to get out of my apartment, get out of my own head, and get in the car—even if it was to indulge a certain morbid curiosity to document a SoCal I'd never seen before and hopefully would never see again.

The physical distance from people made me feel emotionally closer to both my friends and strangers. Radio DJs kept telling me, "We're in this together." And I believed them. That made me feel better.

I knew there were people who didn't know me who'd be looking out for me if something were to happen.

But I was going to try to make sure I didn't wind up in their care.

I masked up—but not to protect others. I selfishly wore a mask to protect myself.

And I still do.

I might still, even after the mask requirements are loosened.

I'm writing about the COVID-19 health crisis now because with trails and dining rooms beginning to reopen, the first chapter of it has ended (though there are more chapters to come).

I'm glad to see that car hop service will continue at some places. I was having a good time eating in my car.

In fact, my car is pretty much the only place I've felt any sense of safety since this all started—since January, when I first caught wind of a "novel virus" that was on its way to California (though it had probably arrived before then).

While the majority of Southern California was shut down, I'd go anywhere—as long as I could stay in my car.

I used the pandemic as an opportunity to live out my American Graffiti dreams and reclaim some portion of the 1950s that I was born 15 years too late to enjoy.

It was also an excuse to indulge in my donut obsession—especially a roadside donut tunnel I could drive through.

Behind the wheel, I felt invincible. Even curly fries couldn't hurt me.

And if everyone else was staying safe by staying inside, wasn't it the perfect excuse for me to go out and explore—blissfully alone?

At the first suggestion of "opening back up," I felt sad. I loved my little solo dates with Los Angeles, those get-to-know-you moments that usually only occur at the beginning of a relationship.

Nine years in, I realized there was still more to learn about LA—and about myself—and about myself in LA.

I'd feel better about the loosening of the restrictions if that meant the coronavirus were gone or that people weren't getting sick or dying. But that's not the case.

The virus hasn't gone away. And neither has the risk.

We've just normalized the risk.

And it seems that most people are willing to sacrifice their own health—and the health of their customers—in order to stay in business.

But the more other people go out, the more I stay in.

They say another "wave" of infections is coming in the fall, with cooler weather and the start of cold and flu season.

I'm hoping to get a few safe activities in before then, maybe a day or two off and even a hotel stay or a dip in the pool.

But I'm bracing myself for what's to come.

Related Posts:
Quarantine Angst?
My First Outbreak
Peaking Poppies In a Pandemic

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