One side effect of this interlude, for those of us who are staying home except for solo, well-distanced walks is that there is lots of time to culture-watch and think.
Here are my observations:
- Some researcher needs to compare coronavirus statistics to residence type. Big apartment buildings have elevators and interior hallways. Smaller ones have exterior stairwells, typically shared by 4 units. Single family homes can be densely packed or more spread out. Based on this, it might be possible to tease out information on how contagious the virus is, outdoors, via brief, incidental encounters, at varying levels of social distancing. It would be a nasty data-crunching problem, but hey, that’s what supercomputers are for.
- Smoking seems to be on the increase. I am astounded by the number of people I see smoking. And it’s not just people stepping out for smoke breaks. People are smoking while mowing their lawns, walking the dog, unloading groceries, etc., etc., etc.
- Vaping seems to have vanished. Are people reacting to the concerns about lung disease and vaping by switching back to cigarettes, during the time of the virus?
- People make an enormous number of trips a day to their cars. This mystifies me. Many if not most of them aren’t actually going anywhere. They just go to the car, do various things that do not involve getting in the car to drive, then go back indoors. This is clearly a piece of American culture that has bypassed me, all my life.
- Similarly, parked cars often have people in them. I’ve learned to give them a wide berth because they often have rolled-down windows, and walking too close to a car is a formula for a surprise encounter. Often the occupant is smoking (see above), but sometimes they are fiddling with phones or just sitting. Perhaps this is how people do another type of psychologically necessary social distancing, and temporarily escape from being cooped up 24/7 with too many family members?
On second thought, maybe the last of these also explains all the trips to the cars. Any excuse to get some physical and emotional space. People also seem to be mowing their lawns frequently. I bet we are heading into a bumper year for landscape management.
Meanwhile, I’ve developed my own social distancing quirks. I’ve studied the neighborhood patterns and learned when people are most active. Walking at the warmest time on beautiful spring days, for example, is to be avoided.
And, rather amazingly, walking in sleet (which we can get in spring showers) is fun, invigorating, and feels remarkably safe.
It’s amazing how much you can learn and observe in a month (which is about how long I’ve been doing this).
Stay safe…observe…and stay sane.