Caving to mounting public pressure, on April 3, Gov. Kay Ivey called for a statewide “stay-at-home” order, which began last Saturday and, unless things change, will run through Thursday, April 30.
The previous Friday, she closed all “non-essential” businesses, restricted social gatherings of more than 10 and called for social distancing.
Though there were exasperated, breathless cries from certain members of the statewide media for Ivey to issue a stay-at-home order, after Mississippi, Georgia and Florida did so, there was really very little difference in what our neighboring states did with their orders and what Ivey had already done when she called for all “non-essential” businesses to close March 27.
One particularly disappointed columnist said, “That’s right — we’re behind Mississippi. Again.” There was a creative use of white space between “Again” and “Mississippi” that really drove the point home.
Except that narrative is false.
(I can’t lie. I like to use white space too.)
I absolutely concede a stay-at-home order certainly sounds more stringent and catches one’s attention much more than closing “non-essential” businesses. And she should have just called her March 27 order what it essentially was, a stay-at-home order. But there were very few, if any, differences in what Ivey called for on March 27 and what Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and the others did on April 1.
So we were not, in fact, behind Mississippi.
Even if you are not a huge fan of Kay Ivey — which I have not been since she refused to debate or really even answer any questions from media during her last campaign, not to mention the I-10 bridge/toll fiasco — but still, intimating she had done nothing to protect Alabamians until April 3 is completely disingenuous.
And it’s exactly why people don’t trust the media anymore.
And rightly so.
But an argument over semantics seems “non-essential” to our mission right now. And our mission is to make sure everyone gets through this thing safe and well, while also trying to make sure our businesses survive, so when this nightmare is finally over we will all have jobs and the financial security we need to get back to “normal.”
But for some reason, I can’t help but think a lot about words right now. Our vocabularies have all increased in one month’s time.
So many new words.
In a decade or so, a word bank on an American history test will include: COVID-19, droplet, pandemic, social distancing, quarantine, PPE, PPP, EIDL, stimulus and more.
I can already imagine my son holding flash cards in his hand, calling out these words to his child.
“The act of standing six feet apart as not to spread the virus from person to person,” he will say.
“Social distancing,” my grandson or granddaughter will say with confidence and without care.
“You know I was in fourth grade when this happened and I will never forget it,” he will tell his child, just like I have told him countless times about where I was on 9/11 and what it felt like in the days following.
Two of these future vocab words have really rubbed me the wrong way though, so I refused to put them in my future imaginary word bank. And those are “essential” and “non-essential” business.
I get it. I understand the meaning and the necessity of this classification system.
And God bless those “essentials” who are still out there every day, either caring for the sick or making sure the healthy have all the supplies they need.
But man, oh, man, what a slap in the face to the business owners whose companies have been ordered to close, whose livelihoods (and the livelihoods of their employees) have been taken away. Talk about adding insult to devastating economic and emotional injury by saying, “Oh, I’m sorry. You are not essential. Your business just isn’t necessary or really needed” right now.
I took these “non-essential” businesses for granted. I just assumed they would always be there waiting for me whenever I was ready or felt like going. And I have never appreciated them more than I do right now, as they sit silent and (hopefully just temporarily) shuttered.
Once this is over, it will be “essential” for me to walk back into Osman’s to hear Osman pounding out pork tenderloins for his schnitzels and Mickey greeting us with her smile. It will be 100 percent necessary to celebrate an anniversary at Ruth’s Chris and a good report card, sitting at the bar at Cammie’s. Watching a Saints game at Heroes will be required, as will strolling into Callaghan’s on a Wednesday night to hear the quintessential sounds of Phil & Foster.
Seeing Jason Isbell perform “If We Were Vampires” at the beautiful Saenger Theatre in December now instead of in March will be so much more powerful and meaningful.
Picking up tons of birthday gifts from Big City Toys for the slew of “makeup” birthday parties certain to come will be a no-brainer.
Booking a condo for a week so we can once again dig our feet into the beautiful sugary white sands of Baldwin County beaches will be so needed and so welcome in so many ways.
And having our roots touched up or our quarantine mullets chopped off, while gossiping with our hairstylists will be at the top of our lists. Please. (Some of us need it more than others. Trust me!)
It will be absolutely vital to get back out there and do the things we like with the people we love. Not just for ourselves, but to get these places back up and running.
While some of our most beloved businesses may not be considered “essential” in these crazy days right now, they have never seemed more “essential” than they do right now — maybe not for “living” in the technical living/breathing sense of the word, but certainly for making our lives worth living.
And I just can’t wait to see the “open” signs turned back around on these oh-so-essential “non-essential” businesses very soon.
And all will be right with the world.
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