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Culture, View Points

COVID-19 Self-Quarantine Day 7: Keep Your Distance

March 19, 2020 by Brian Champlin
Morning walk on the L.A. River Path. Photo by Brian Champlin

I’m finally feeling like myself again, even if the world outside now seems thrown off its axis. It’s been six days since I had any severe cold symptoms, and today was the first time in a week I felt like I could give the dog a proper walk.

This morning Milo and I strolled to the L.A. River Path, which is only a football field away from our place in Frogtown. I decided in advance that if it was really crowded we’d come right home. I didn’t want to risk getting into close contact with anyone, if only on the off chance my illness was more than a cold, and I was somehow still contagious.

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It was 8 a.m. Primetime for cyclists and joggers and dog-walking neighbors. Hardly a soul was around.

A lack of people made it easy to do what we were supposed to do. If you approached someone on the river path, you hugged the opposite side as you walked by. If you saw someone stopping to tie their shoe in front of you, you’d slow down to make sure you didn’t get close.

The vibe was eerie. Everyone exchanged ‘good mornings’ but it was hard to tell if anyone meant it. Smiles seemed forced. Body parts moved in slow motion, as if striding underwater. The air itself felt heavy, like an overpacked suitcase filled with morbid politeness. No happy dogs were allowed to greet.

I wonder if this how things will be in the future?

You figure that a real-deal pandemic will change things, especially in respect to how we interact with one another in public spaces. Anything less than a germaphobic approach will be unacceptable. People will be suspicious by nature. A new aisle of personal cleaning products will pop up at Target. Masks will not only be a health necessity, but a fashion statement. Legions of marketers will sit in meetings brainstorming on how to pry open consumer wallets based on fears of a reemergent health crisis. Hand shaking will be a no-no. Maybe we’ll bow, or give one another the Vulcan salutation. I don’t even think my fingers can bend that way.

Everyday the distance between that future and this present seems to be growing shorter and shorter. This afternoon our mayor put the city on a ‘safer at home’ protocol, and soon after the governor did the same for the the state. Everyone here is going to be inside for a good while. It seems to me that it won’t be long until much of the rest of the country follows suit.

I don’t know where the path takes us from here, but I try to be optimistic. Tomorrow is another day. And as the shock of locking down wears off I think people will steel their resolve, and the air will move a bit easier.

I hope I’m wrong about a lot of things.

Previous: COVID-19 Self-Quarantine Day 6: My Dog Loves That I Never Leave the House

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