As I sit here writing these words, I once again find myself … waiting.
Waiting … for Gov. Kay Ivey to announce what businesses will be allowed to re-open in Alabama and when.
Waiting … to watch the “sides” start battling no matter what she decides to do. Killer of Alabamians or killer of economy and small business. There is no way to win this one.
Waiting … to see if my business will be one of the lucky ones to have our PPP loan approved this time around. And waiting to get word on our EIDL assistance, too. Everything is in slow motion.
Waiting … to see even when Ivey reopens the doors wide open on business and even if every business gets the maximum disaster assistance (they won’t), if it will even matter.
Waiting … to see if too much damage has already been done to get back to normal … for some of us at least.
Waiting … to see what life is going to be like after this.
I have never been good at waiting for anything. Patience is not one of my virtues. And “waiting” to find out answers I most likely do not want to hear is even more excruciating. I think it’s called dread.
And I do dread seeing what things look like on the other side of this. I already dread doing a lot of the things I used to enjoy, or at least not mind.
For instance, going to the grocery store. I used to enjoy slowly going up and down the aisles, usually without kids in tow, a nice little half hour of peace, shopping the BOGOs and getting our goods for the week — maybe humming along to some Wilson Phillips or whatever soft rock is piped through their sound system. If you “Hold on, just for one more day, things will go your way. Hold on for one more day.” I’m trying, Chynna. I am trying.
Now, I hate it. Not because I feel like I am going to get sick. I am safe, use common sense and slather my hands with Purell before and after, wipe my buggy (which is a good name for a band) and keep my distance from folks.
But it just feels so weird and dystopian. No more Wilson Phillips being played, but some dude saying, “Please practice social distancing and stay six feet apart,” and with everyone walking around in masks and staying as far away as possible from the other suspected germ-carriers who are just trying to get milk and eggs too.
If you sneeze or cough, you might as well be a mass murderer.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s just allergies, right! Can someone throw this killer out of here, please? He’s on aisle six.
A manager at Publix greeted me as I walked in the other day. I nodded my head and smiled out of habit. But as I walked away, it dawned on me she couldn’t see my smile behind my mask. I probably just looked like I was ignoring her. Not that she cares probably, but it bothered me.
Note to self: Just smiling won’t cut it anymore. You will need to say “hello” or “thank you” and loudly enough where it is audible from behind the mask. Maybe incorporate hand gestures.
And this is in an “essential” business. What is it going to be like when “non-essentials” come back online?
Is it going to be just as weird to go try on clothes at a local boutique, get a massage or grab lunch with your girlfriends? Will we just want to just stay home instead of dealing with this “new abnormal?”
The answer is probably yes.
I do not look forward to celebrating friends’ birthdays in restaurants that are half empty because of capacity orders with waiters bringing us our orders out wearing surgical gloves and masks.
It will definitely be weird for a while.
But if we ever want things to get back to anything resembling the good ol’ pre-COVID days, we are all going to have to suck it up and get back out there to support these guys. Obviously, while we continue to be smart and safe.
There is no way any business is going to survive if we all wait for things to get back to “the way it used to be.” They will die on the vine if we wait for that and never come back. And many still will not make it. The margins for any small business are so thin even in good times. Operating at half speed may not even be worth it for a lot of these places.
None of us want to imagine our city without the restaurants, bars, gift shops, coffeehouses, boutiques and, as my grandmother would say, “beauty parlors” that make it so unique and special. Not to mention all of the people they employ. It is completely depressing to even contemplate this. And I really think some people (especially those who haven’t been really affected by this) don’t realize how close to extinction many of these places are.
I am ready to get back out there and support our friends and neighbors.
Sure, it’s going to feel a little surreal at first to see folks in masks and gloves, but we will just have to get through it with grace and humor. I mean, whose dad do you think will replace his usual restaurant joke of “I hated it” when the server removes a thoroughly cleaned plate to “I’m feeling a little ache in my side, doc!” first? I bet some dads are already practicing these jokes in their heads. God bless ’em as long as they tip their servers well for enduring it. But, dads, please no “bend over and cough” jokes. I repeat, no bend over and cough jokes. Not appropriate.
I am not scared to get back out there. There are smart ways to do it. We’ve proven that, and it’s time to start living life again. I am just sad it’s probably not going to look like it used to — not for quite some time anyway, and maybe never for some things. We will have to grieve for those days, for that life. I already am.
But we will find our comfortable place. And it’s time to start slowly feeling our way back into our new way of life.
No more waiting.
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