I got up at 4 AM the other night. My dog Schnitzel is off his regular schedule too and needed to go out. He’s actually, oddly, been practicing social distancing himself by refusing to go to the park during the day for the last week. At 4 AM though, that’s what he wanted.
4 AM is just about the most quiet time in San Francisco anyway, people are home from the bars and restaurants. Most people haven’t gotten up yet for their jobs. I thought I would be the only person out at that time. But no… there were a few walkers. I live near a hospital so I thought at first they would be healthcare workers going to or from their shifts but when I got closer (not too close!) I saw they were just regular folks, just out walking. People afraid to go out during the day? People so full of anxiety they couldn’t sleep? I don’t know. We didn’t talk. I didn’t recognize them. We gave head nods from a distance.
I get up at 5 AM for work most days. That’s not a busy time either, but usually as I make my thermos of tea, I see other lights going on in the houses I can see from my kitchen window. This week: nothing. I am the only one. It’s quiet in the way the city never is.
It hasn’t even been a week (it will be later today) since Mayor Breed gave the stay-at-home order. It’s good to remember that because it feels like a lot longer. This has been a grocery crisis for about three and a half weeks, but societal countermeasures only started six days ago. This is not meant to be a blog about details of COVID-19 –others will do that better and I cannot keep up with the news on a daily basis when working– but that means that even if everything we are doing is working, we will still see a huge rise in illness this week and the week after.
Societal activities have stabilized a little in their particular weirdness of the moment. It took a few days for people to get it but most people understand the concept of social distancing now. I know everyone has anecdotes where people have violated personal space, but look at how far we’ve come. These concepts are new to everyone outside of public health. Not all of it is obvious. Even though I have been working on this for the store, it took another worker to point out that our paired cheese workers, myself included, were working too close together. I was working on the big problems: customers in the store, customers outside the store, our break rooms, etc. and hadn’t even thought about some of the smaller work programs that we have done forever. That’s not a fault. That’s an acknowledgement that we all need each other’s help changing our patterns.
It was only yesterday that it felt like San Francisco really understood social distancing. People got the idea of standing in line 6 ft apart pretty quick but changing the smaller things took more time. Having no real traffic makes it easy for people to step out into the street to avoid getting too close to each together. Since we were among the first cities to do this, I hope the learning curve is accelerated elsewhere. Not that it’s time to think about this, but we are learning a lot for the next pandemic too.
I worry that once these new procedures become regular, people will start becoming more irritable. When things are new people have a tendency to pitch in and excitement carries you forward. When you start settling in for a siege, morale can be in trouble. Remember everyone, we only have each other. You might need a 4 AM walk alone, but remember to stay plugged in as much as is healthy for you and pitch in where you can.
Today is the first day in a long time (probably seems longer than it is) I am having a second day off in a row and it is doing wonders for my mental health. We need our quiet moments to recover from the uncertainty outside. I’ll be up at 5 tomorrow to carry on. Stay safe everyone.