Seeking Skillet Suggestions

We’ve got a cool new helper in the kitchen.  Dr. Science and the GV Jogger sent us a skillet as a housewarming gift, to help round out our very limited supply of Stonington cooking implements. 

The skillet was hand forged by the skilled blacksmiths and treated by the artisans at the Lockhart Ironworks of Logan, Ohio.  It’s a beautiful piece of work that even came with a cool mini-skillet that we’ve hung in a place of honor on the magnetic strip that runs along one wall of our kitchen.

I’ve always wanted a true skillet, which is one of the most versatile cooking devices you can have.  Skillets also can become kind of heirloom items that get passed down from generation to generation.  So, I want to make sure I treat this skillet with the care and respect it so richly deserves.  The key is to make sure that the skillet becomes properly seasoned and develops a natural non-stick surface.  The Lockhart Ironworks note says that it has already pre-heated the finished skillet and treated it with a layer of coconut oil for seasoning purposes.  It recommends that we apply a thin coat of our “preferred oil” and cook a meat that is rich in fat or oil during the first few uses to help with the seasoning process.  And of course the skillet needs to be carefully dried and oiled after each use to prevent rusting.

So, I’m seeking instruction and guidance from my internet friends.  What should our “preferred oil” be, and what are some good meats to cook to help establish the desired seasoning and achieve the patina that will move this skillet into heirloom territory?  Suggestions would be much appreciated!

Maine’s State Hat

Politicians like to designate state symbols.  In Ohio, for example, we’ve got a state bird (the cardinal), a state flower (the scarlet carnation), and a state tree (the buckeye).  Our state is also, by legislative designation, represented by such things as tomatoes, flint, ladybugs, and the white-tailed deer.

Although state legislators seem to love designating state symbols — it’s pretty much a no-lose proposition, since the losing candidates for state bird or state insect are unlikely to complain — they’ve left some territory unexplored.  It’s somewhat surprising, for example, that more states haven’t name a state hat. 

Texas has led the way in this regard; some years ago it named the cowboy hat its official state headwear.  But other states haven’t followed suit.  That’s somewhat surprising, because officially designated hats can tell you a lot about a state.  New York, for example, would be well-represented by the kind of pork pie hat that Rocky Balboa wore during his debt collection days in Rocky.  Minnesota would probably choose the “mad bomber” fur hat.  Florida might go for a sun visor with two beer cans with sip straws on each side.  And California could opt for the kind of effete, snobbish beret that the Hollywood types wear.

If Maine ever designated a state hat, it would definitely be a ball cap.  Everyone around here, male and female, seems to wear one.  But it couldn’t be just any ball cap.  No, it needs to be a nondescript, ancient, battered ball cap, preferably with some salt stains on it and a bill that has been repeatedly bent and features a fair amount of fraying.  And the cap has to be in neutral shades — blue, gray, or khaki — and bleached of most of its color by repeated outdoor exposure.  Once you’ve got the right kind of hat, you’ll never get rid of it.  In fact, some ball caps you see have probably been passed down from generation to generation through the family patriarch’s last will and testament.

We’re still working on getting our ball caps into appropriate Maine shape.  We’ll know we’ve done it when we wear one to town and one of the locals looks at us, nods, and says: “Ayuh.”

Reopening . . . One Step At A Time (Cont.)

Ohio continued on its deliberate path back to a fully functioning economy over the weekend.  Restaurants and bars were permitted to begin serving patrons at their outdoor areas on Friday, and this week indoor service can begin — with appropriate social distancing.  

Fortunately for the restaurants and bars that wanted to get back to business, the weather cooperated for the most part, with some warm weather and only a few thunderstorms rolling through.  I walked to downtown Columbus over the weekend and passed several venues where people were enjoying the chance to get out.  Yesterday Kish and I walked past another popular spot, Lindey’s patio, where you could hear the happy babble of chatting people, just like old times.  

There were news reports of some Short North bars that had seemingly overcrowded outdoor areas, but I didn’t see anything like that.  What I saw, instead, were businesses that wanted to get going again, and customers who wanted that, too.  People seemed to be respecting the social distancing rules for the most part — both at the restaurants and otherwise.  But there is no doubt that things are loosening up.  Soon we’ll start to get some statistics that will allow us to assess the impact.

Reopening . . . One Step At A Time (Cont.)

Today another German Village business opened its doors to walk-in business after the prolonged coronavirus shutdown.  This time, it’s the Hausfrau Haven, a great wine (and beer) shop that has been a German Village mainstay for decades.  The HH had been open for carryout business — which we gladly took advantage of — but now you can walk in to make your wine selections.  As we spring back from the shutdown period, increased access to adult beverages can only be a good thing.

My guess is that the Hausfrau Haven sign is (no pun intended) a sign of things to come in Columbus and Ohio as other businesses open up.  That is, masks will be required, and the requirement will be enforced by the business itself, out of concern for its employees and its other patrons.  I think most people will happily comply with that.

Next up for Ohio and German Village — a restaurant or bar open for foot traffic and in-restaurant dining.  When G. Michael’s and Lindey’s and Ambrose and Eve and the High-Beck open up to dining and drinking patrons, that will seem like a very big deal.

 

Last Of The 30s

It’s obviously stupid and pointless to get mad about the weather, because there’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it.  We’re human, though, and we just can’t help ourselves, can we?

max-min-font-b-vintage-b-font-brass-font-b-thermometer-b-font-multifunctional-humidity-hygrometerI try not to let the weather bother me, and appreciate the crispness of a cold morning.  But when the cold morning is temperatures in the 30s in May, such that people have to put throw rugs and garbage bags and towels over their planters and window boxes to avoid the untimely demise of their flowers due to freezing temperatures, I admit that it does bug me a little.

Today, though, I celebrate.  Today, I will glory in yet another in an interminable series of unseasonably cold, clear spring mornings.  I will bundle up and don my oft-used stocking cap and gloves.  I will walk with head held high, breathe in deep gulps of frigid air, and note, again, how the chill tends to sharpen the smells as I clean up after Betty on our walk.

Because today is the last of the 30s temperature days.  It’s 34 right now, and once the thermometer rises past 40 we won’t see the 30s again for months.  In fact, the weather apps suggest that we’re going to pretty much go straight from November weather to mid-June, with temperatures getting up into the 80s by next week.

We know it’s silly to let the weather get to us, but since it’s part of the human condition, why not embrace that fact?  If you live in the Midwest, join me!  Take this opportunity to celebrate the turn and the final, long-overdue departure of the 30s temperatures.  Let’s give them a really good send-off, bid them a happy adieu, and let them know that we want them to stay away for a long, long time.

Reopening . . . One Step At A Time (Cont.)

A sense of palpable excitement swept through Ohio yesterday, like a fresh, warm May breeze carrying the scent of lilac trees and spring flowers.  Continuing with its gradual approach to reopening the state’s economy after a prolonged shutdown, the DeWine Administration announced the next step in the process:  allowing hair salons, nail salons, barber shops, and bars and restaurants to begin to service customers once more.

gettyimages-638568556Some other businesses and offices opened this week, and retail stores and service businesses can reopen next Monday.  Under the Governor’s latest order, tonsorial parlors will be allowed to begin operating next Friday, May 15.  Restaurants and bars that have outdoor seating will be allowed to start serving patrons in their outdoor areas that same day, and indoor dining will begin again on May 21.  By May 21, the vast majority of the state’s businesses will have been permitted to reopen in some form or another, and the economy will lurch into gear once more.  Governor DeWine has concluded that, with the curve flattened, the economy simply can’t be shuttered for much longer without doing irreparable damages.

The Governor’s order indicates that the reopening won’t be an immediate return to the old, pre-coronavirus operations:  customers and stylists will be masked, for example, and restaurants will be trying to align tables and establish patron admission procedures to achieve social distancing.  There will probably be a run on plexiglass and plastic barriers, too.

Shaggy Ohioans who are heartily sick and tired of eating their own cooking, and who yearn for a return to more normal times, greeted this news with breathless excitement.  Soon we can get haircuts again!  And eat at a restaurant, too!  (Well, kind of.)

The news spread like wildfire on social media, where announcements of hair styling appointments became, for the moment, more popular than unsubtle political memes or cute videos of tumbling kittens.  Expect to see lots of Facebook posts with selfies of masked people getting their hair trimmed by other masked people, or people eating at some outdoor venue.  What used to be taken for granted is exciting news right now.

Reopening . . . One Step At A Time

Some Ohio businesses reopened today.  The sign in the photograph above was on the finely carved door of Winan’s, a chocolate and coffee emporium here in German Village that is reputed to sell some of the finest candy, and coffee, you can find anywhere in Columbus.  

Winan’s reopened, subject to the limitations stated on the sign, just in time for Mothers’ Day.  I took the picture above shortly before the store opened, with new hours, and when I passed by the store later in the day it was at its maximum capacity of four customers, and another patron was waiting patiently outside for the chance to go in.  Interestingly, although the Winan’s shop was open, the Starbucks near our house was still closed.  I imagine businesses are making individualized decisions about the reopening process.

I’m inclined to patronize as many German Village businesses as possible now that they are reopening to help get the economy back in gear, and I was encouraged to see that Winan’s was getting some traffic on its first day back.  Some chocolate and coffee sounds pretty good, too, don’t you think?     

In A Mask, No One Can See You Scowl

Obviously, you see a lot more masks around now.  People are ordering masks, making masks, and talking about masks — a lot.  In Ohio, there has been a lot of chatter about masks over the last 24 hours because Governor DeWine’s administration seems to be revisiting precisely who should be required to wear a mask, and when, when businesses reopen.  Kish and I have laid in a supply of cloth masks and disposable paper masks to meet our masking needs once the masking guidance is settled.

2020_4largeimg_183406303So far, I haven’t been in an enclosed structure other than our house since before the guidance on masks started to change.  You will recall that, initially, health authorities took the position that masks weren’t needed and actually might be counterproductive, because donning and doffing a mask might cause you to touch your face, which was totally discouraged.  Then the prevailing view changed, and masks became recommended.  Now, in at least some instances and for some people, they apparently are going to be required when you are in a structure.

So far as I can tell, however, there is no requirement that you wear a mask if you just go outside for a walk.  I don’t wear one for that purpose, and most people I’ve seen around German Village don’t seem to do so, either.  I’m not aware of any studies or medical information indicating that, if you maintain proper social distancing when you are out in the open — and I do — you are at risk of contracting coronavirus, or communicating coronavirus to others.  And a mask really interferes with one of the key elements of a walk, which is to breathe in some deep gulps of fresh air while you are out stretching those atrophied muscles and appreciating nature.

Nevertheless, some people now seem to be arguing that everyone should be required to wear a mask when they exit their front door.  That’s because the whole mask/no mask issue plays into the busybody gene that those people have in abundance.  They decide to do something, and because they do it they think everyone else should be required to do it, too — and you’re a hopeless idiot and horrible person if you don’t.  And they will gladly share their opinion with you, in stern and certain terms.  But just because they conclude that they want to be masked when outdoors doesn’t mean I must follow their lead.  In our land of liberty, you have the right to wear a mask outside if you choose, and I have a right to go maskless — at least, until our elected representatives instruct to the contrary.  That hasn’t happened yet.

I’ve heard of some busybodies taking people to task for walking, jogging, or biking without masks.  That hasn’t happened to me, yet, and if it does I’m just going to ignore it.  The masked among us can judge us all they want, but they need to remember that when they’re wearing a mask we can’t see them scowl.  And that mask pretty much muffles their hectoring comments, too.

A Fortnight To Glory

Yesterday, both the President and the Governor of Ohio announced their plans for reopening broad economic activity in the wake of the coronavirus shutdowns.  Interestingly, both the federal plan and the Ohio plan turn on a two-week period — and the ancient English word for a two-week period is a “fortnight.”

On the federal level, fortnights will be used as a measuring stick for the “gating” criteria that define and separate different phases of economic activity.  If a state or region shows a decline in reports of influenza-like illnesses and a downward trajectory in documented cases or positive tests for a fortnight, they can pass through the gate and move to the next phase.  Each successive phase involves fewer restrictions on economic and social activity.  Some states will have already passed this fortnight test and will be in a position to move to phase one immediately; others will be looking at their metrics and their data curves and evaluating when they can pass through the gates.

may-1In Ohio, where the “shelter in place” edict came early and the coronavirus curve has been “squashed” according to state officials, the fortnight is being used for a bit different purpose — it’s the period between now and May 1, when the state will “reopen.”  I put “reopen” in quotes because the process will be gradual and the precise details are still being worked out.  The process evidently will involve some novel activities, like taking your temperature before you enter the workplace, wearing masks in offices, maintaining social distancing, and repeatedly wiping down surfaces.  It’s definitely going to be a change from the norm — but boy, it will be good to get back to the office under any circumstances.

“Fortnight” is an ancient word derived from the Old English phrase fēowertīene niht, or “fourteen nights.”  The resulting truncation, “fortnight,” seems apt in this coronavirus context, doesn’t it?  For weeks now we’ve all be staying in our homes, as if they were individual forts, and it has undoubtedly been a dark period, like a very prolonged night.

But now, as states and regions begin passing the tests and moving through the gates to progressively greater economic and social activity, we can hope that the dark period is ending, and we’ll all be able to emerge from our little fortresses and begin the process of getting back to normal.  Soon, we hope, our “fortnight” will be over.

A Mask Of My Own

I’ve written before about Handy Heidi — my lovely and talented sister-in-law — and her magic paint brush.  Her skills extend beyond painting, however, to also include sewing.  And in yesterday’s mail I received the latest fruits of her labors:  my very own coronavirus mask, courtesy of Handy Heidi’s magic sewing machine.  Thanks, Heidi!

It’s a sturdy mask, in suitably sober colors, as befits its sober purpose.  I know that some people have opted for more brightly colored masks, but that’s not where my head is at, frankly.  If I need to wear a mask on my walk to work or around the office, I don’t want it to look like I’m celebrating.  And the black on one side, brown on the other side color scheme will match my boring lawyer suits.

I’m not keen on wearing a mask, but if that’s what it takes to open Ohio and America for work again, I’m all for it.  

The Laboratories Of Democracy At Work

Amidst all of the focus on the federal government government and its response to the coronavirus pandemic, many people have forgotten that, in our system of government, it is the states that have the power to make the truly important decisions.  They’re about to be reminded about that.

51ryo5scx7l._ac_sy400_The response to COVID-19 has actually been a good illustration of how America is supposed to work — and why we’re called the United States in the first place.  The federal government can offer guidance, and can coordinate how the national stockpiles of ventilators and masks and hospital gowns are distributed among the states according to need and forecasts, but it is the states, each a separate sovereign government with a separate sphere of responsibility, that have made the really big decisions about how to deal with the scourge of COVID-19.

States can, and do, take different approaches to issues — which is why Justice Brandeis long ago described states as the “laboratories of democracy.”  In Ohio, we’ve been under a state-ordered lockdown decree for weeks, and most states have similar lockdown orders, but each of the orders varies in terms of who may work, who is considered essential, and what businesses may operate.  Notably, a number of states, primarily in the middle swath of the United States, have not issued lockdown orders at all.  (And, in case you’re curious, those states for the most part have low rates of COVID-19 cases and COVID-19 related deaths, according to the New York Times state tracking tool.)

I say above that we’re going to see a real reminder of the importance of state decision-making very soon because we’re rapidly approaching the point where the states that have been shut down are going to be deciding when, and how, to get back to work.  On Friday, for example, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he expects to issue an executive order on reopening businesses in this coming week.  Ohio Governor Mike DeWine hasn’t given a deadline, but has said he also is working on an order to reopen the state for business.  We can expect many other states whose statistics are at the low end of the coronavirus incidence rate list to also be looking to get back to normal, and probably sooner rather than later.

Having a state-centric approach is unnerving to some people, who think centralized decision-making is by definition better decision-making.  Having the states act as “laboratories of democracy” in deciding how to reopen after a pandemic seems like the right approach to me, however.  The United States is a big country, and conditions differ significantly from state to state, in ways that are directly relevant to dealing with shutdown orders and pandemics.  Some states are rural, some are industrial.  Some states are densely populated, and some are so wide open it’s breathtaking.  It makes no sense that Wyoming, say, should be on the same timetable as New York or subject to the same requirements as New York.  In reality, governors and state officials know their states far better than federal officials ever could, and they can and will make decisions that are tailored to the needs of their specific constituents.

We should all pay attention, because we’re getting a real-life, real-time civics lesson — and the lessons will continue in the coming days and weeks.  If the national news media is smart, they’ll start paying a little more attention to the different states and how those state officials are deciding how to restart things.

“So, How Are Things In Ohio?”

We’ve had a number of phone calls with family and friends during this COVID-19 shutdown period, and one of the questions you typically get from people who live outside the Buckeye State is:  “So, how are things in Ohio?”  With all of the attention being paid to terrible hot spots like New York, states like Ohio can get lost in the shuffle.

virus-outbreak-ohio-30The answer to the question is:  Ohio is doing just fine.  In fact, you could argue that Ohio is doing better than just fine — it’s actually doing pretty well, thank you very much.

When you talk about pandemics, you’re always going to talk about numbers.  According to the information released yesterday, Ohio has 5,878 cases of the coronavirus, with 1,755 hospitalizations and 231 deaths.  That’s 231 deaths too many, of course, but the reality is that Ohio stacks up pretty well against other states on a per capita basis — especially for a state with a number of more densely populated urban areas.  According to the New York Times state-by-state chart, 5,878 cases puts Ohio at number 17 in terms of the total number of cases, but Ohio’s count stands at 50 cases per 100,000, and 2 deaths per 100,000.  That puts Ohio at number 34 among the states on the list of cases per 100,000 people, and number 27 on the list of deaths per 100,000 people.  By those metrics, Ohio is orders of magnitude better off than states like New York, New Jersey, and Louisiana.  New York, by comparison, has reported 869 cases per 100,000 people and 40 deaths per 100,000 people.

Ohio was one of the first states to impose a preventive shutdown order, in hopes of flattening (and, incidentally, extending) the infection curve, and by all accounts those efforts have worked like a charm.  Dr. Amy Acton, the director of the Ohio Department of Health, recently said that the social distancing practiced by Ohioans has “squashed” and “stretched” the curve.  That means that Ohio’s hospitals and health care facilities aren’t being overwhelmed by cases right now, and shouldn’t be overwhelmed in the future.  We’re now reaching the peak of the modified curve, and officials are forecasting that we’ll hit about 1,600 new cases per day, which is far below that nearly 10,000 cases per day that were initially forecast to be the peak of the curve.

The progress in Ohio has been such that Ohio’s governor, Mike DeWine, says that he is working on a plan to get the state back to normal, because “things are not as bad as they might have been.”  The current Ohio shutdown order ends on May 1, nearly three weeks from now.  Will it be allowed to expire, so people can go back to work, and if so, under what circumstances?

Those are questions that authorities in Ohio, and across the country, will be wrestling with, state by state.  Ohio’s officials have established a pretty good track record on making these kinds of tough decisions so far — but I think they also realize that the state  can’t stay in shutdown mode forever, and people need to get back to work.  Balancing public health, the state’s economy, and the mental and financial well-being of state residents will be a huge challenge.  If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that being governor is not an easy job.

Breaking The Good News

Recently I wrote about the choices politicians have had to make in breaking bad news about how their states, and the residents of their states, are going to have to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.  Breaking bad news to people is a tough job — but in some respects breaking good news is arguably even more challenging, at least under our current circumstances.

And, for the first time in a long time, there seem to actually be some glimmers of good news.  Ohio, for example, has carefully managed to avoid “hot spot” or “potential hot spot” status, and yesterday the state’s number of reported new cases was below the curve of projected COVID-19 cases for the eighth day in a row.  In fact, Ohio’s number of new reported cases was less than one third of projections.

There are also some tantalizing signs that the curve flattening and bending is happening elsewhere, too.  In yesterday’s federal coronavirus task force briefing, for example, Dr. Anthony Fauci reported that recent data from New York indicates that the number of hospitalizations, intensive care admissions, and intubations in that hard-hit state have started to level off, and Dr. Deborah Birx reported that social distancing — the countrywide mitigation strategy that has been implemented on the largest scale ever attempted — appears to be working.

But therein lies the good news challenge.  The curve seems to be flattening and potentially bending precisely because the vast majority of American have taken the stay-at-home instructions seriously and have tried, responsibly, to isolate in their households.  But if you give people good news, might they relax in their precautions and let up a bit in their zealous pursuit of social distancing, thereby increasing the risk of a new flare-up and outbreak?  And if you get people’s hopes up, won’t they feel even worse if it turns out that these preliminary signs aren’t the bend in the curve we are hoping for?

21a9dbf8-44ea-4df2-a49b-28802063afc6In this case, I’m in favor of giving people the good news as it comes out, with appropriate caveats.  People have made a lot of sacrifices during this shut-in period.  Some have lost their jobs — for now, at least — and everyone has experienced disruption and more personal isolation than they would want to experience otherwise.  We all need to know that our sacrifices are making a difference.  And, as Andy Dufresne wrote to his friend Red in The Shawshank Redemption, “hope is a good thing . . . maybe the best of things.”  In this case, there’s nothing wrong with a little hope to leaven our collective spirits during difficult times.

I’ve got a lot of respect for the innate sensibilities of the American people.  For every jerk who has ignored social distancing to party on a beach, there are tens of thousands who have acted prudently and without complaint during this period to protect themselves, their families and their communities.  I’m confident that people will continue to act responsibly if they receive some positive news about how their efforts are making a real difference.  In fact, I think there is a good chance that Americans react to such news by redoubling their social distancing efforts, to finally bring this scourge of a virus to its knees and drive a stake through its ugly heart.

Breaking The Bad News

We’ve been seeing a lot of our nation’s governors lately.  In Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine has been on TV so much with afternoon announcements about COVID-19 developments that some people are timing their first cocktail with the news conferences and enjoying “Wine with DeWine.”  We’re getting a living reminder of lessons learned during our junior high school civics classes and the fact that we live in a country where the states have significant powers and duties.  When a once-in-a-lifetime crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic hits, governors are put front and center in dealing with all of the issues.

img_2632Unfortunately for the nation’s governors, a lot of what they’re doing right now is breaking bad news.  They’re announcing shutdowns and “shelter in place” edicts and other orders and showing small-print graphs and charts that make people upset and anxious.  Nobody except introverts and hermits wants to be cooped up in their houses indefinitely.  But the time durations of these shutdown orders varies widely, from state to state.  In Ohio, I think the initial “stay at home” order covered the period until April 6.  In Virginia, by contrast, the governor just announced a shutdown until June 10 — more than two months longer than the initial Ohio order.

The current situation squarely raises the issue of the best way to break bad news.  Put yourself in the shoes of the governor of your choice.  If you were issuing a shutdown order, would you give your citizens the worst-case scenario — which seems to be the technique used by the Virginia governor — so that they can start to get adjusted to the prospect of being at home for two months?  It’s a kind of “rip the band-aid off” approach, isn’t it?  And, if you take that approach, you can hope that future developments might allow you to shorten that time period and give the residents of the Old Dominion a pleasant spring surprise.

Or, do you proceed in a more incremental way, issuing orders that have a shorter duration, acknowledging that this is a fast changing situation where you need to be responsive to new information?  Of course, all the while you would understand that you might well have to extend your shutdown, perhaps multiple times, and disappoint people who were hoping the current deadline would stick?  In that scenario, you’re doling out the bad news in bite-sized chunks, hoping it might go down easier.

I don’t think there’s any right or wrong answer to this, necessarily.  Some people are band-aid rippers, and others prefer to remove them a fraction at a time.  I’m normally a band-aid ripper, but I think if I were governor during this period I’d take the incremental approach.  We’re still gathering information about the coronavirus and its trajectory, and an incremental approach allows that information to be analyzed and addressed as it comes in, giving the governor the chance to keep the citizens of his or her state updated and abreast of the latest news.  The incremental approach seems a bit more humble and nuanced than the two-month thunderbolt edict issued from the executive.  And who knows?  There may be something to this “Wine with DeWine” thing, too.

The Boys And Girls In The Bubbles

Ohio has been in shutdown mode for some time now – hey, can somebody remind me how long it’s been, exactly? — and I feel like we’ve adjusted pretty well.  Human beings are good at that; genetically, we’re hard-wired to assess new situations, figure them out, and come up with new strategies and approaches.  In only a few days, changed routines have been established, new daily patterns have become the norm, and what was once unusual has been accepted and incorporated into our lives with a kind of resigned, collective shrug.

aidan2bin2ba2bbubbleFaceTime and Zoom and Microsoft Teams and countless other video applications have gotten a workout.  What used to be simple, voice-only calls have morphed into video calls as a matter of course, not because video makes the calls more efficient, but because it’s incredibly nice to see other human faces from time to time, to get a smile or a laugh and hope that you’ve lifted someone’s day as they’ve lifted yours.  Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, we’ve had virtual coffees and virtual beers after work and virtual cocktail parties with friends and family and colleagues to keep that human touch and to know that everyone looks okay and seems to be hanging in there.   Seeing faces turns out to be pretty darned reassuring and uplifting, when you think about it.

When we go outside for walks, we maintain that assured clear distance of six feet to the extent we can, veering into the street or onto the grass at Schiller Park to respect that buffer zone.  Social distancing is a physical concept, though, and it doesn’t mean we can’t maintain non-physical social contact with the people we see, through a smile and nod and a cheerful greeting and a brief chat as we stand appropriately apart.  People seem to be more consciously outgoing, as they steer clear of each other.  Maybe it’s just the fact that everybody is at home all day long where they used to be at their offices for most of the day, but it sure seems like there are lot of people out on the street at any given time.  Perhaps that’s because it’s another way to get that human contact — even if it’s remote contact.  That’s another element of this new paradigm that seems to have been adopted and incorporated without too much trouble.

During this shutdown period, we’re all living a kind of virtual life, but of course it’s our real life.  We’re all like the boy in the bubble, living in our little zones.  It’s a fascinating social experiment, and I hope people will remember this instinctive need for contact with fellow humans when this isolation process ends, as it will.  I, for one, will never take walking into a friendly restaurant or bar for granted again.