Today was the nicest day of 2020 as the temperature rose to a sunny 26 Celsius. No wind, blue skies, and thousands of masked people out exploring parks, walkways and grocery stores in Manhattan.
While I did need to pick up groceries for the week, I was enticed by the weather and extended my walk through a few different neighborhoods. I picked up produce in the East Village, two loaves of fresh bread from a bakery in Union Square, then checked out a new vegan restaurant in the West Village.
Restaurants and bars that have managed to stay open have become extremely creative, opening up their front windows and providing food and drink to go. Bars in the East Village are even serving up cocktails to people who want to grab a gin and tonic in a plastic cup as they walk by! Not sure if it’s an encouraging sign of community or a disconcerting representation of society to see people lined up for these drinks!
While walking through the city today, I noticed myself becoming a little agitated when people weren’t obeying the social distancing measures. If someone wasn’t moving over on the sidewalk, or stepping aside in a grocery aisle, or if it just wasn’t physically possible to stay six feet apart inside a store, it got on my nerves. This rolled over to walking the streets as well. Whenever people were walking behind me at a similar pace, I felt anxiety about whether I was going fast enough or whether they were following too closely, when I should have just been enjoying the stroll in the sunshine at a leisurely pace.
This got me thinking about what life is going to be like post-pandemic in a place like New York City. If crowds of people bothered you, you would never move to a place like New York. You never have your own space. There's always people on the sidewalks, in the shops, in the parks, and on your subway car. While frustrations happen in everyday life because people can be annoying and large crowds can sometimes be stressful, this pandemic is causing an aggressive auto-reaction inside me (and likely inside many others) that says "stay away from me!"
It's not how I want to live as a human being, and certainly not in New York City, so eventually I'll somehow need to retrain my brain to accept strangers entering my personal space. A natural reaction of "stay away" or "move!" is unhealthy internally, and definitely not helpful in creating a community or society built on trust and friendliness.
I've been advising companies on how to plan for a post-Covid world, adapting their business models to attract the “new consumer”, and function in a healthcare space that has been rocked by this pandemic. If I was consulting for Mike Arnold, I would tell him to setup a mental health strategy to navigate crowded areas (which is pretty much any area in Manhattan). Breathe deeply, plan ahead so you're not in a rush, walk slowly, and convince yourself that everyone is doing their best and nobody is trying to cause harm.
If I can adopt these practices and truly believe that folks have positive intentions, I think life will be much better when things start to open up. If I can't, New York will lose yet another appealing factor that makes it such a beautiful and unique City to call home.
Thanks for reading,
To end on a positive note, I took a video from my rooftop of the daily, 7 PM cheers for essential workers. This definitely gives me joy and provides a positive outlook for the East Village community and the rest of the city. Enjoy.