As I turned the calendar pages during this past year, I kept thinking that this was the year of living dangerously because it seemed danger lurked everywhere. When I got to this March – specifically March 12, 2021 – I recalled that day a year before when everything stopped and nothing would ever be the same.
On that infamous day, kids were sent home from school with all their books and belongings. I, like millions of other people, was told to go home and work remotely. Department stores, restaurants, bars, barber shops, gyms, clubs, and basically all non-essential businesses shut down. Broadway shows closed – Broadway shows closed! There were no more concerts, operas, or ballets. Every aspect of art and culture in our lives seemed to be taken away from us.
Now, a year later, we are still living dangerously. I still cross the street to avoid people, and I’m still reticent to get on a train or bus. I see less thrown away masks on the sidewalks, but does that mean more people are being conscientious about littering or less people are wearing them? In my mind I keep hearing Dr. Fauci saying, “It’s about the droplets” and thinking that the very act of breathing is what can kill us.
Many people have followed the rules. They wore masks, social distanced, and were not gathering in large numbers. Unfortunately, many do not follow the rules. In the past few months when I take my daily walk, I am seeing increasingly more people without a mask. I have passed bars and restaurants where crowds of people are drinking, eating, laughing, and talking. Talk about droplets!
The problem is that it has gone on too long for some people. They dealt with it at first, but then as time went on it just got too hard for them. They felt trapped indoors – oftentimes with the same few people for months and months – and they had to get out. Once they let their hair (and masks) down, there was no turning back.
I want to cry when I think about all those people who died in hospitals and nursing homes alone. Because of the restrictions, their loved ones couldn’t be with them at the end of their lives. They weren’t able to give them a consoling hug, a goodbye kiss, and find some closure. This is truly a heartbreaking situation, and there is no way to ever make things right for the loved ones of those people lost.
Other problems seem small in comparison to the loss of a loved one, but everyday life changed dramatically and overwhelmingly for us. Kids couldn’t go to school, and we parents had to work from home while trying to help the kids in their online classrooms, all the while hoping we didn’t loose the Wi-Fi signal. Working from home meant Zoom calls and people wearing a suit on their upper bodies but wearing their underwear on their lower ones and sometimes forgetting that fact and revealing whether they wore boxers or briefs while standing up to get coffee. Talk about living dangerously!
There was, of course, the seemingly daily supply runs – consumption of food and drink seemed to double in this house – which were like food runs on The Walking Dead. We put on surgical masks and gloves, carried our reusable shopping bags, and ran outside hoping not to encounter anyone. Small local stores had signs on their doors – “One Customer at a Time” and usually someone standing at the door to enforce the rule.
Toilet paper became the new commodity. It was like “I’ll trade you a filet mignon for two rolls.” I remember in the beginning hearing reports about the national toilet paper supply running low, and then I’d go to the store and see people with shopping carts overloaded with toilet paper. It was a crisis made out of panic, and I felt it myself when I would go down the aisle and see one roll left on the shelf.
It did feel dangerous and frightening as the shutdown kept going on. In those first few in weeks in March 2020, I kept hearing things like “We’ll all be back in April.” Then April came and went, and it was “We’ll all be back by May.” Then May came and went, and you get the idea. We couldn’t go anywhere, do anything, or see anyone for month after month.
The daily briefings – for me conducted by Mayor DeBlasio, Governor Cuomo, and President Trump – started to consume my time. I was waiting and wanting to see and hear something hopeful, but I was only made to feel scared and despondent. I stopped watching them after a week because they kept repeating themselves like a reality version of the movie Groundhog Day. There seemed to be no end in sight and that was pretty hard to accept.
I wrote a book that was published in November 2020 that I would have never written without the crisis because it was about it.
Now, in March 2021, we are in a different place than a year ago. Back then we were all naïve and thought it would be over soon. Now, we are battle-hardened warriors against the virus; we are savvy and know how to cope with masks, restrictions, and being satisfied with takeout. We don’t like it any better than we did in the beginning, but we understand what’s going on and how to deal with it – for the most part.
The COVID vaccines provide hope, but until everyone gets them, we are still living dangerously if we go into a crowded bar or restaurant, but some people will try to do that anyway. I know it has been so long, so long since life seemed normal, but it is coming. Kids will go back to school full-time in all grades, people will go back to work, and everything will open up again.
A dark Broadway will glitter once again, and theatre goers will frequent restaurants and bars. The doors will be thrown open at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and all other venues and museums. Our cultural lives will be restored to us.
Yes, the year of living dangerously continues for now – continues for more than a year’s time – but we are still here. Those of us who got through this year are fortunate and survivors. Over half a million Americans who died never had a chance to get the vaccine, and we mourn for them.
The time for big crowds at Citi Field, concerts, weddings, and parties is coming. The time to sit at a bar and talk with friends, to eat in a busy restaurant, and push into a crowded subway car is coming. We have a chance to get the vaccine. We’re almost there, so hang in there and be smart. The year of living dangerously is almost over, and then we will all say “Good riddance!” when it is.