Day 7 – From a Bicycle

I rode my bike downtown this morning. It was my first time out of the house in 48 hours.

I knew that the city would be quiet, but I wasn’t prepared for that type of quiet. No cars. Homeless folks only on the streets. I’ve been wondering about that. About what if you were already living on the streets with limited contact to reality. Maybe you were predisposed to paranoia and suffered from mental illness. Then one day you’re walking along and the streets are silent and everyone’s gone. What would that be like? Would it be liberating? Or isolating? Would it be the worst kind of loneliness?

I watch online as small businesses blink out, are extinguished. A week ago there was optimism for the small, local guys. They said they would adapt. Venues would live stream content and restaurants would serve to-go orders. Now many of these places have folded their cards, revealing how thin profit margins truly were all along.

I think about all of the professional work I’ve done in my career to promote Everett, Washington as a viable place for small businesses. How in the past few years it’s felt like we were really on the cusp of becoming a destination, a truly livable place. How the weekends here began to swell with foot traffic and cars filled parking spots. Gentrification was the threat for the past half decade, not economic extinction. Strange times. Will we still have a “product” to sell to investors in a month? In a few weeks? I feel like we’ll be bounced back to a time worse than when I moved to this city during the late-2000s Recession.

The bicycle as a social distancing tool? Source: The 1980 Schwinn Catalog.

My wife and I have been watching TV shows from before. Most any TV show will do. Anything show that takes place before now. Now is not a normal time.

I have been watching the Ken Burns documentary on baseball. Right now the series is telling the story of World War II. How different the mood was then when confronting a national crisis. The national spirit was a fighting one. There was a capable, eloquent leader in the Oval Office who rallied the country to arms. There is no one in leadership who fits that role today. Everywhere there is anxiety.

A few weeks ago I was filled with different worries, worries that seem innocuous now, innocent even. The typical worries of paying bills, running errands, car issues, pleasing employers. Funny how the scope of things can change so quickly.

I used to have this reoccurring strange feeling when I’d ride my bike downtown. I was convinced that the world was going to go to a bad place soon. Call it a premonition. I read plenty of articles on climate change and thought that global warming would be the catalyst, that a changing climate would trigger mass migrations, economic instability, and warring factions. But a virus? That was science fiction. Or so I thought.

I used to think of the bicycle as the ideal form of transportation after Peak Oil. Now I think of it as a great way to get from point A to Point B while practicing social distancing.

I want to be optimistic. I am doing ok mentally and emotionally compared to many, I think. I have my family and we’re in good spirits. If my wife and I are anything we’re resilient and will work harder than most anyone to make ends meet.

Coronavirus 2020. I’m trying to understand it from the middle of it happening. I don’t have the benefit of hindsight or larger context. I think it will be like when you cut into a tree. You can see a charred ring in the cross section that shows the year that the tree was burned in a fire. I think there will be a collective trauma marker in the generations that lived through this quarantine. Bad memories of lost school, fear, silence, the hoarding of resources.

In the future I hope we will not take for granted basic things like personal contact and the visiting of places.

Peace to us all.

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