Here they come, a squad of chubby Sandinistas wearing black surgical masks. Better cross the street. Oh no! A tall, skinny diva walking her tall, skinny dog. All I can see are her eyes, and they’re glaring at me. Better put on my mask and run in the street, at least until I get halfway back to my shack in the Tinicum swamp.
Easier said than done. On the block up ahead there’s a party going on with music playing and a Happy Birthday sign in the window of the corner house. None of the partiers are wearing masks, and they’re not in a social distancing mood. They’re teenagers. Probably more worried about running out of beer than catching the plague.
So I stay in the street and run harder and put my mask on whenever someone gets too close. And after awhile there are no pedestrians and I feel like I’m in a movie playing the sole survivor of an attack by aliens that left all the buildings intact. That’s it, I decide, I’ll pretend it’s a movie.
Barnes & Noble is closed. The restaurants have shut down and the schools and gyms and arenas and retail stores and bars and theaters and coffee shops. It’s not as if everyone just took a few days off and will return next week. Some of the storefront windows are boarded up.
When I get back to the shack, Swamp Rabbit shows me an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer:
… It’s already clear that our habits have been profoundly altered after just a few weeks of home confinement. Many people have grown comfortable working in their dens and basements and having life’s necessities brought to their doorsteps. The longer the closures go on, the more likely that Center City’s struggling retailers will finally succumb to the delivery economy.
The rabbit is rattled. He downs a shot of whiskey and says, “What if them office workers you dissed last week don’t come back? What if everybody starts living indoors all the time? If Center City dies, what happens to us peeps in the boondocks?”
I shrug. “In the boonies we’ll live like second-class citizens, same as before, except the taxes will be a lot higher. Uptown, the office workers will return, at least for a while. Center City will make a modest comeback when the infection rate falls to near zero.”
“Yeah, but what happens if there’s a second wave of virus, and a third, like with that flu back in 1918?”
“Have another drink,” I said. “You don’t even want to think about that.”