Driving the Eerily Empty Streets

Forty million Californians are now under house arrest due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus, and millions more Americans across the country are voluntarily staying at home. For now, there’s not much to do even if you dare leave the house.
Being daredevils we ventured out last night to get some drive-through fast food, handed to us by a gloved cashier, and figured that as long as we kept the windows rolled up and the doors locked it would be safe to use some suddenly inexpensive gasoline to drive around town. The Old Town and Delano districts are usually packed with customers for the popular bars and restaurants there, but both were eerily dark and empty. The elaborate neon marquee of the grand old Orpheum Theater where we had hoped to perform in the annual Girdiron Show next month announced that it was indefinitely shut down, and our friends who produce and perform at the nearby Roxy’s Downtown theater are also on hiatus.
Our favorite dive bar is locked up, so is our second favorite dive bar, and although our church is still holding services it has cancelled classes and attendance is down. We can’t visit our parents because their retirement community is locked down and its residents confined to the apartments where the staff delivers meals, and now seems an inopportune time to drop in on our friends.
When the weather warms up again we’ll figure it’s safe to take a long walk through our picturesque neighborhood and its several parks, but the nearby art museum and botanical garden are both closed for the duration, and we’re advised to avoid coming within six feet of another human being.
This might be an overreaction or it might be necessary precautions — as we have no expertise in epidemiology and can’t say –but we do know that it’s not a happy situation. The economic repercussions from everyone staying at home will surely be severe, as so many of our friends are already all too aware, and the psychological effects might be worse. By nature human beings need to interact with family and friends and the interesting people you might encounter in a public place, and the patriotic call for “social distancing” requires real sacrifice.
If you have a job that can be done from home and are happily married with well-behaved children you can home school, it might not seem so bad and could even have its advantages, so count yourself lucky. If your business is shut down and you live alone or, worse yet, with someone abusive, these are hard times.

— Bud Norman

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