It’s 18 months now since the virus went viral in the U.S. – and for me – exactly six months since my second shot.
The subway reopened 24/7 in mid-May and the city used a new ranked-choice ballot in the June primary to pick the guy who is a lock to be the next Mayor.
Our Governor is quitting in shame at a minute before midnight tonight after a nearly eleven-year run of scheming, steamrolling, basking, bullying, charming, chest-thumping, credit-taking and being a creep. He’s being replaced by an affable upstate chops-lacking politician who occupied a ceremonial next-in-line post.
My employer was the first (and only) major US air carrier to announce a vaccine mandate for its workforce early this month. It was met with a tacit thumbs-up from my union – and a full embrace from the super-progressive flight attendants union. The airline I work for is starting to feel like an airline again with a modest move each passing month to rebuild and restore a domestic flight schedule that goes places people want to go with some frequency. International flying is another story as the US government refuses to lift a ban on visitors from most of the advanced world. Reciprocity be damned as Biden allows Americans to go to and fro but bars vaccinated Brits, Canadiens, French, Germans, Italians, etc. who are anxious to come this way.
I’m still wearing a mask pretty much all day, everywhere outside the apartment. It’s required (although not enforced much) on the job, the train and bus, in the elevator. And in the few places where it’s not a requirement, I’m generally leaving it on in the name of continuity (no futzing with the on and off) and solidarity with the masked forces who feel safer circulating in a place dense with humans. A lot of people here have quit with the masks, moved on, required or not.
One of the things that really helped from making me go nuts from the start of all this is a conscious decision to be fiercely non-judgmental about any and all of the folks who are going rogue. The anti-maskers, the anti-vaxxers, the deniers, deliberately or thoughtfully so – or not – with their conduct -. all of them. I observe them. I think about them. But from the first, tense days of the worst of the pandemic, I decided outright that I would not allow even a tick of blood pressure to rise from these folks to protect my own sanity.
That’s not to say elected nudniks like DeSantis and Abbott aren’t acting criminally with their behavior. It’s one thing to advocate against lockdowns and restrictions as a risky gambit to preserve the economy. It’s quite another to issue executive orders that tie the hands of local jurisdictions on safety measures like masking in schools and vaccine requirements.
The vaccine is real. It’s great. It’s available and appealing now even to many who were initially hesitant.
The legitimate protection the shots offer – and the timetable under which they were created, tested, approved and rolled out is way beyond expectation.
The difficult challenge now will be to repair and rebuild our face-to-face ways across the sectors of life here. A full return to school is big as is the reopening of Broadway. The Times reported in late March that the amount of available office space in Manhattan right now (101 million square feet) is more than all of the combined office space of Los Angeles, Atlanta and Dallas (Matthew Haag, NYT).
Last Friday’s (Aug 20, 2021) subway ridership total was 2,457,500. That’s one-half of normal for a weekday in late August. The daily turnstile clicks are published on the MTA.info web site and are a helpful barometer of where the city is on the comeback effort. I check the numbers often although I can see it with my own eyes as I ride the train day and night. The comeback effort is being fueled largely by the same people who worked through the worst of the lockdown combined with those sent involuntarily to the bench, now called back into action.
One of the yet-to-be-understood big pieces of getting the city going big again are all those who are working from the places their employers have allowed them to be holed up at. When – if ever – do they rejoin the rest of us and work in a collaborative, get-it-done, go-to-lunch, talk-it-over, exchange ideas, cut a deal, stop-at-the-water-cooler, kinda place?
The tourists will be the easy part. They’ll come when Broadway is lit up and Biden says the border is open. The pizza, I can attest, is as good as ever.