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Thoughts on a pandemic…

The end of an era.

Let me start with three quick points.

First, I have been stupidly silent for too long. There is no excuse. Not really. But the combination of several events happening in close temporal proximity colluded to sap my focus. From changing jobs (but yes, I still have a non-writing job) to the pandemic-induced elimination of many things I unknowingly relied upon, I floated along for the last period of time without a blog or email.

Second, I had not really planned to offer any specific thoughts on what we are experiencing, in the midst of what for most is the first (and hopefully only) pandemic we will experience in our lives. I find that as a society we are so inundated with news, commentary and an array of other distractions, that it felt like I didn’t need to add anything else.

Third, as it would be for most people, the daily tragedy of the loss of life is impossible to avoid. There are no shortages of stories of loss and how they are impacting their loved ones. While I am not the best person to offer commentary on this front, I don’t go a day without reading about the lives of some of those who have been taken. With a silent thank you that my friends and loved ones are doing OK.

So let me come to the picture that triggered me to share some thoughts, the one at the top of the post. For the last few weeks, there was only the sign on the right, announcing new hours and reminding everyone about keeping their distance. But in the last week, two additional signs appeared, and they go together. On the left is a list of what would be rather odd items to be for sale in a coffee shop. I mean, who goes into one to buy a fridge? But the top sign provides all the explanation needed.

As is no doubt happening across the country and to some extent the world, this business is closing. And not with some grand going out of business sale. On the contrary, they are going out quietly, closing their doors for the last time on a rainy Sunday in April.

As I digested the fact that a great little coffee shop that made amazing cinnamon scones was going to disappear, a few things specifically crossed my mind.

First was a sense for sadness. Both for this shop in particular, but also for the countless other shops and small businesses around the country in similar situations. I knew of at least six people who worked there, and presumably they are now unemployed. With a tougher road ahead to get another job.

Second was the void it would create for myself and others. The shop was popular, with an obvious stream of regular customers. This persisted during the pandemic as they transitioned to takeout only, many regulars gathering each morning in anticipation of their opening. It was no different on their last day.

Third was what events like this mean going forward. Starting a small business isn’t easy. It takes a lot of time, effort and money. The rate at which jobs and business have disappeared won’t be repeated in reverse as the economy is permitted to ramp back up. For certain, the jobs and business lost in what will be 2-3 months of some form of lockdown won’t come back in 2-3 months. Will the majority come back by the end of the year? I truly hope so.

It was impossible to look at the closure of the local coffee shop and not be thankful that I still have a job that pays the bills. And that I still have the time to continue my writing. I like to think that my job is safe, but one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted for me is that nothing is safe. Nothing should be taken for granted. We should be thankful for what we have and be ready for the unknown change that could come to try and take it all away.

The month of April is almost in the rearview mirror. Summer is just around the corner. Many states here in the US now contemplating or beginning relaxing movement restrictions, despite the prevailing expert opinion that we’re not quite ready to do so yet. One overarching question comes to mind.

I hope we’re not moving too fast and making a mistake.

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