What’s it Like Gathering During the COVID-19 Slowdown?

Crystal A. Persad
A rapid descent into forced solidarity landed me down a rabbit-hole of spontaneous get-togethers and unplanned reverie.
https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=47qTDi_0XiSrfQA00 Photo by Kevin Curtis on Unsplash

A picture of my boyfriend during one of his many tattoo sessions popped up on the widget app, courtesy of the new IOS update. This photo was from March 2019. A bit perplexed, I began recounting the months and days which seemed to have become an endless spiral of blasé nothingness.

“OMG, it’s been over a year since your first tattoo sesh with Jimmy.”

“Oh shit, yeah. Damn, that was so long ago.” His response was even more bizarre to me. So long ago…

It almost sounds like the intro to one of our most beloved fables, “Once upon a time.”

Before March 2020, life was in full swing. Monday through Friday I Ubered 15 minutes to my job and back. (I’m aware I am quite spoiled). I knew what to expect each day. Mornings were filled with mass breakfast orders. Lunchtime consisted of “clique-esque” gatherings so we can gossip about our personal and work lives. Afternoons mired in hurried “goodnights” and plans to either go shopping at the nearby strip malls with our work besties or depending on what day of the week it is, grabbing drinks at the local bar that served all the healthcare workers and various staff. On the weekends, I lazed off and languished in solitude from the busy week, dreading the upcoming week ahead.

My weekends often consisted of spa days and pampering sessions that I accrued because I was too busy spending time with others or working. It was the “me-time” I craved and relished in.

These activities may sound familiar and resonate with you because just like me, you had a weekly, monthly, and yearly routine that went about seemingly uninterrupted. However, 2020 had other plans for our unceasing monotony.

March 11th, 2020 — the last in-store shopping session I had. It was my birthday and also the same day that “work from home” took effect. I remember the call I got from my Manager, “yeah, I think we’ll be out for a week or so and then we’ll be back in. If you need anything, just let me know.”

I figured a week off from going to the office wouldn’t be so bad. However, what was supposed to be a week turned into 6 months and counting of sequestration. I haven’t seen my “work bestie” who is also my real-life best friend in months.

The last time I saw her was in April. It was through my window when she came to drop off a headset for me to use with our VoIP. Her mother is in the group of high-risk individuals; having beat cancer twice, yet not unscathed. She lives with one and a half lung. A virus, like COVID, would completely decimate her respiratory system. She also has a toddler at home and a son with asthma. I completely respect the fact that we may not see each other until 2022.

Since then, she and I have both gained promotions at work and a new sense of appreciation for each other’s company/relationship, even though it is now basically virtual. Our friendship has grown stronger and we both rely on each other for moral support. 2020 had some plusses, I guess.

The months without face-to-face interaction with others dragged on. I went from being completely surrounded by my favorite persons each day to sitting in front of my computer while Netflix provides background noise. Dog videos and memes on Facebook have kept me sane.

Besides the company of my boyfriend, it had been months since I had spent time with another soul. I longed for fellowship with other humans.

I took initiative and changed that sinking feeling of isolation on the 19th of September.

After confirming that each one of us had tested negative for COVID, even after short trips and socially distanced meals via NYC’s outdoor dining initiative, I assembled a small gathering between myself, my boyfriend, his sister, and daughter along with his parents.

It was my first time dining at a restaurant since late February. A table large enough to seat 6–7 along with Krylon orange painted patina chairs were set out for us under a white tarp along a moderately traversed street. We sat around, all wearing masks, as we stared at the menu and chatted about traveling once things settled a bit.

I have to admit, dining outside was a bit out of my element. I’ve always disliked eating outdoors. It’s not really my thing. I like to enjoy my meals surrounded by high booth seating with a window view.Every time a car passed by I tensed, thinking back to the time diners were mowed over in Manhattan by a motorist while regaling in their freedom to enjoy a meal beyond the protection of those same four walls I’ve come to appreciate dearly.

Unmasking to enjoy your meal comes with a caveat of sorts. Once you leave your seat, you must mask-up to use the restroom or to exit, even though you’re technically outside and socially distant from the other diners.

On the weekends that followed, we’ve attended an engagement party, spontaneous small get-togethers, and a couple of outings that consisted of just the two of us. We remained socially distanced and observed mask policies.

Even though at certain times, activities that I gave no second thought to felt as if I were in an episode of the Twilight Zone or Black Mirror, wearing a mask and venturing out into the COVID riddled world isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Each day that passes, wearing a mask, being socially distant and, respecting limitations placed on once limitless activities are being normalized. Life as we’ve come to know it can be upended in the blink of an eye.

It’s up to us to anticipate and adapt to the unforeseen, making the best lemonade out of life’s lemons.

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Fighting big insurance companies by day, serial writer by night. Endo warrior. Dog enthusiast. Ambitious procrastinator. Experience is my muse.


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