My bicycle needed new tires so at the ripe old age of 62, never much inclined to wield a wrench, I simply put the electric bike on the bike rack and I say that without fully expressing the effort required to lift that heavy lump of metal, and drove it to Recycle on Stock Island. That was an exercise in coronavirus management. I called and spoke by phone made the drop off without meeting anyone and walked next door to Shifting Gears to make a date for the Fiat which has a passenger window that no longer, after eight years, opens as it should. Then, finally Rusty got a walk at Little Hamaca.
I was curious after all that good work to see how Duval Street looked on the first weekend after the roadblock came down. If you think of this as the quieter season, after the winter but before schools are out, then it looked pretty normal. On the other hand the reality is that bars only opened on Friday and not all stores are open and we are all hyper aware of the damned virus.
Looking up you can check the distance apart for the stools at the Whistle. This was mid morning so the absence of patrons is simply a fact of the hour not the shortage of people out bar hopping. Restaurants and hotels have occupancy limits, thermometers are in use and social distancing is still happening in the Keys.
I have been impressed by the people I have met who are not wearing masks. I don't wear my mask on the street, in the open as I walk, but everyone who crosses my path. appears as conscientious as I try to be about avoiding the dreaded close contact. The occasional oblivious walker I avoid easily by stepping aside. I carry my mask in my pocket for emergencies much as one always carries a cellphone.
I avoid Facebook controversies but I have been reading what the scientists have been advising us as they work on learning to understand the virus and from what I gather the surest way to transmit the virus is to be in a room with an infected person for a period of time longer than a casual encounter. Therefore indoor restaurants are out despite the distancing they practice. Outdoor seating is possible but you'd have to sit as far apart as Arthurian Knights at the Round Table which defies any idea of social intimacy. I wear my mask entering a business as required in key west and recommended in Monroe County. I no longer worry about touching objects but I do wash my hands and keep sanitizer in the car. Bear in mind my wife has no immune system and I cannot risk exposing her as she is locked down at home for now.
I found the idea of dropping in for an ice cream to be symbolic of the new world I want to live in and yes, had I been carrying cash I might have put my mask on and stayed distantly in line behind the customer already in there. Ice cream at ten in the morning was a bit too robust for me. I found the sign over the entrance to be ironic in these difficult times.
There is a common thread that runs through conversations among locals about driving downtown. Everyone hates and despises people who step off the sidewalk agains the light and risk getting run over by cars crossing Duval. Well guess what? After two months of having downtown to ourselves Rusty and I forgot all our rules of the road and stepped right off the sidewalk seconds after taking this picture. We were in no danger of being run down but I had to shrug apologetically to the driver who thought sounding his horn would improve the situation. Rusty and I had a long talk about road traffic awareness after that. I think he ignored me.
It was a funny moment for me as an hour previously I nearly ran over a pedestrian at Little Hamaca, actually two people and a dog. Believe it or not I was doing 20mph and as I came around a blind corner the two women were right there. Out of consideration for the innocent dog I stopped in plenty of time and the women stared at me as though I should have been ashamed of myself for not bothering to run them down...I didn't even tap the horn. Mistakes are easy to make as I found out later. What a good little adult I have grown into.
I drove home after noon with a tired dog on the back seat and while he snored I looked at a long, endless line of cars filled with holiday makers on their way to the vacation of a life time. May we live in interesting times. That is to say we are living in interesting times whether we want to or not.