Wednesday, March 11, 2020. I went by Trader Joe’s on the way home from pilates. It was busy but not too bad. Thursday night I stopped at Vons after work, and that was okay too.
Friday we learned we were going to work from home. We all raced around the office, except at the sink, where we’d spend 20 seconds, methodically scrubbing our hands just like we’d been taught on YouTube. Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you.
How long would we work from home? A while. A few weeks, maybe. Surely no more than a month?
“Did you go to Vons recently?” Liz asked me. “Yeah, it was fine,” I told her.
I stopped by Vons that night. It was not fine, and the checkout queues stretched down the aisles, so I didn’t hang around.
I was in high school the first time I learned about the perils of walking-while-black in the USA.
Our family friend, Les, showed up at our house a little later than expected, and explained he was late because the police had stopped him. I was confused. Why would the police stop Les?
He explained this had happened to him often. He'd be stopped, spread up against a fence, frisked, and told he fit a description. He'd cooperate and then be on his way. The description was usually black, male, tall, about his age.
I was stunned. I was by no means naive. I'd grown up with plenty of poverty and violence nearby, and the neighbors...remember the (white) neighbors in the adjacent row house were always drinking, shouting, fighting, cussing, battling it out in the yard, and when they got more creative, one of them was arrested (in my attic) for firebombing a car in Georgetown. The police were actually quite helpful. My mother called them when those same neighbors tried to burn down our house. When my sister fought with one of them in the yard. When they traveled as a pack and assaulted my sister and mother walking to the supermarket. It's entirely possible my family might not be alive but for the Alexandria police force in the seventies and eighties.
Twenty days after leaving out of LAX, I flew EWR-SFO-BUR.
I was much less anxious this time around. Since my last flight, I'd been on buses, PATH, light rail, the #4 subway, one taxi with the windows open, three Lyfts, two Citibikes, and had been in a laundromat. I'd ordered grocery delivery, which I'd never done before. I'd ordered a pillow on a website and did curbside pickup (walk-up, actually). I'd sat masked in the park or on the stoop with friends, with several feet between us. I'd ordered from various delivery services ($$$$) and from restaurants that delivered to my neighborhood in Jersey City (most don't--yet). I'd worn four different masks and gone through over a dozen vinyl gloves.
Newark Airport was nearly a ghost town. There was no food for sale except for the self-serve "Global Bazaar" prepackaged stuff, so I was glad to have brought my own. I had nine seats to myself on the EWR-SFO flight.
SFO was a little better, and I was able to buy a salad. The United Club in SFO was open, FWIW, which wasn't much, but at least I could sit in a distant corner, remove my mask, and guzzle water.
TSA was easy and empty in both EWR and LAX. Precheck is meaningless without queues.
Would I fly again? Now, sure. Next month assuming flights are fuller, maybe not. My SFO-BUR flight was half full, and that was awful. Just too anxiety-inducing.