It has been 6 weeks since we were made aware that we're facing yet another global pandemic. The occurrence of pandemics is really nothing new to us, as we've experienced several since the Spanish Flu in the second decade of the 20th century, and a few in just the first two decades of our current century. However this one certainly seems to be bringing about some new responses, as we are being told to go against all that we've learned about basic human immunology, since that field of study began in earnest in the mid 1800s, and quarantine the healthy in some places as well as the ill. And encouraging an avoidance of our own atmosphere and everyone other than family through the process of social distancing every where else. It's an unusual and counter-intuitive approach, which has had made for some curious visuals in our new paradigm.
Among other things there have been some very interesting changes in our grocery stores. There are signs advising on which direction we can travel going through normally two-way doors, and in some places there are even one-way-aisles now. There are “sneeze-shields” at the registers, and prescribed spacing of the individuals in lines. This seems to have an effect of instilling fear in some patrons, while causing others to look around in disbelief then engage the others in the lines in conversations on current events.
On the streets of Chattanooga Tennessee this past Friday evening, I had more trouble getting the machine to take my money than I had in finding a parking space. I presume it was because the quarters I was using were too shiny and new, and not because of the images of the bats on them. Though under the current circumstances that thought did elicit a bit of a sardonic snigger.
As for parking itself, that's been pretty easy to find in Chattanooga in recent weeks. This shot was taken on Broad Street in the city's center roughly a half hour into what had historically been a very chaotic and busy “rush hour” on a Friday afternoon. However there isn't much rushing going on here at any time of the day lately, other than perhaps by some of the delivery drivers whose cars you can just make out through the trees almost two blocks away. The most visible vehicle in the image, the red truck a block away, is my own.
The liquor stores being considered essential through this ordeal has been the subject of many jokes here in my local area. With alcohol being prohibited in 1920 immediately following another noteworthy pandemic but deemed essential for us to cope with this one. Perhaps we learned a little something back then. I know I'm certainly glad they haven't stopped the sale of alcohol during this crisis. I find a couple of beers, or a couple of glasses of wine, to be very helpful in calming the nerves sometimes after a very long and stressful week. Which is actually a practice that has been prescribed for those with heavy hearts and in distress for centuries, even in the book of Proverbs in the Holy Bible.
In the course of my wanderings to gather supplies for some in need of help, I have noted that I am definitely not alone in my thoughts on this. I have run across several people having a glass of wine or a beer as they worked, just trying to take the edge off the new hassle of suddenly having to do all their work from home. The technology to do so more efficiently exists now sure, but the self discipline that is required to constantly work remote all alone is a learned skill that can take some time to develop. It can also be a bit stressful in the learning.
Speaking of the Bible and technology, while I miss the fellowship of the weekly gatherings of our congregation very much, and admittedly the after service brunches as well, I am very thankful that the technology now exists for the members of our church worship teams to easily live stream the words and music of our weekly services straight into the homes and work places of our church members. These people are being among the heroes in the lives of all of us who look forward to these services every week, and cherish them until we are once again able to come together and meet in person face to face in our sanctuaries.
And just when things in the outside world started seeming a bit gloomy to me during the week I found myself meeting individuals like Bill Morgan of Morgan Arms in Varnell Georgia, who give me hope and encouragement that lifts my spirits above the dismalness of this perplexing situation we've found ourselves in. Because rather than just sit around taking in all the incomprehensible sound-bite-tossed-salad of video clips the media dispenses ad nauseam, Bill has bigger fish to fry. He is a veteran of the military, of law enforcement, and of public office, as well as being a devout supporter of the U.S. Constitution a copy of which hangs prominently displayed on the wall of his shop. Bill spends much of his days networking with other dealers and suppliers in his region, in order to ensure the first responders and other citizens of his community have as much of what they need as he can possibly provide. Further more he runs a full-service gunsmith shop to keep their firearms operating properly and safely, and even makes a proprietary line of firearms accessories in house as well.
Another person I have been glad to get to know is Alma, who manages the Amigo's at Island Cove. Alma runs a tight ship, but she always goes above and beyond to see that her patrons still receive the delicious Mexican foods that we have become accustomed to there in a timely and safe manner. She is always so appreciative of our business that she makes supporting her restaurant through this troubled time a pleasure, and well worth ignoring all the corporate fast food drive-thrus I pass to get there. I am very much looking forward to enjoying the view and dinner on the deck by the water again later, as we start to open our businesses back up.
And then there is Lauren, who is another of the many wonderful people I have had the pleasure of meeting in the course of my adventures through the chaos of this pandemic. She immediately made an impression on me one evening as I spotted her for the first time from over a block away. She was sitting in a window of her third-story apartment, singing and blowing bubbles to the cheers of an as of yet unseen audience. It was then that I new I needed to take the long way to the market I was walking to, and that I needed to take my camera with me.
Shortly after the shelter in place order was announced by our Governor Bill Lee, this lovely young lady (who is quite obviously no introvert) was simply not into the idea of hiding quietly at home, waiting on the social distancing to end and life to return to whatever new normal we may find. She was much more interested in pushing the envelope and being a pioneer in this new paradigm, so she soon devised a plan, bought a portable microphone, and began providing weekly entertainment for her neighbors in the form of a live karaoke and comedy variety show, with some of them even being themed. For one show she dressed up as Prince, dark curly wig mustache and all, and did a really good rendition of “Kiss”.
Looking at the responses of her small audience, ten on one side of the fence to stay within guidelines and sometimes ten on the porches on the other, the cheers and in how we all began to look forward to Thursday evenings so we could see what she was going to do next, it was very clear that Lauren was being very therapeutic for all of us. With her music, her bubbly personality, and her timely comic relief, she was being another sort of hero in in our lives just by being a real live human being who was simply not willing to while away her time alone in silence. Because by and large, with the exception of a few unfortunate introverts here and there, we humans are very social creatures. Who, as evidenced by some of the happenings in Italy, value fellowship camaraderie and companionship over any sort of security via isolation.
The restaurants might be closed to dine-in eating for the time being, but just because we can't choose to dine in them doesn't mean we don't have a choice in where we can enjoy our meals. Over the years, and the courses of multiple careers, I've spent a lot of time dining on rooftops that were not restaurants just to enjoy the views and the thoughts they inspire. Because pandemics and troubles in general are nothing new to us. In the thousands of years of our history as human beings, we have dealt with many wars, famines, plagues, and pandemics. Yet we have still come such a long way since our ancestors used small shards of sharp stone to scrape flesh and fat from animal hides, to make rudimentary cold weather clothing in which to survive an ice age, and thousands of years later we're still here.
I know I'm going to die some day, it's inevitable. I've know that for most of the 54 years I have managed to live so far, and some of those through very adverse circumstances. In that time I've noticed I find a lot more of life in interactions with my family and friends, and even with just random strangers on the sidewalks, than I've ever found in interacting with a plastic box full of talking heads. People I've never met and whom I know care nothing about me personally, who are simply competing for more than their fair share of my attention span with their superfluous subject matters in their quest for ratings to make their money. So I prefer the real world, because I want to live as much of this magical mystery we call life as I can before I die.
Knives & News
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