It’s a beautiful morning here in the Tampa Bay area. As I sit here this morning looking outside, I think about all the places that are re-opening in the next few days, most notably the beaches. How I long for the beach. I’ve felt so blessed to live here, a few short miles from some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Long deep stretches of white sandy beach leading to turquoise water, children playing in the waves, and building sandcastles, the sea birds clustered around the edge of the water, maybe a boat or two on the horizon, maybe sitting in a chaise lounge with a cold drink watching the sunset. My imagination always has an idyllic picture of what it should be.
But I won’t go, even though they are open. It’s just too scary for me. I can wait for a time when at least the virus seems somewhat contained here. But I just saw that in our county, there were 11 new cases yesterday. I can’t help but believe that number will jump with the beaches open.
Not to mention the restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to go out to eat. I mean, actually go out, sit in a restaurant and be waited on. They can only open to 50% capacity, but even that seems too much for me. In Gulfport there are no chain restaurants, save a MickeyD’s and a Dunkin on the main road through town. The rest are all locally owned and operated and give Gulfport it’s well-deserved reputation of being like Key West, without the crowds. But again, I won’t go out to eat for a while. I will see how well the restaurants are handling the social distancing thing. When I do venture out for a meal at a restaurant, I will probably choose one with outdoor seating, which luckily is most of them in this small town.
I understand the restaurants wanting to re-open. Although, many of them here are small, not a lot of seating area, and I’m not sure they can pay their bills with 50% capacity. Especially having been locked down during the height of tourist season when they make the money they need to get through the long hot summers here. This town though has an older population, as does most of Florida, and I haven’t heard one of my friends say that they think it’s safe.
We’ve all noticed, I’m sure, how many people there are who require immediate gratification of their desires. Enough that they go stand on government building steps shoulder to shoulder with no masks as if they are rebelling against the virus. And repeatedly a couple of weeks later, we hear about one or more of the people who were there getting COVID-19, and dying from it. That these people would rant and rave over waiting for a couple more weeks is mind-bending to me. To confuse the quarantine with a government wanting power and control over our every move is ridiculous, and sad, that so many people can’t just get with the program until the threat is gone.
I hate being cloistered from my friends too. In fact, about once a week a few girls come over and I set us up in the back yard, with chairs and tables, which I thoroughly sanitize with bleach first. They bring their own drinks, and food and the chairs are at least 6’ apart. And for a couple hours, once a week, we have our normal lives back.
Tonight one of my musician friends is going to have an hourlong “concert” in his corner yard. He and a few others are going to play their music, properly distanced. He said bring a chair, and sit and listen, of course again, 6’ from each other. Dan and I will go. We’ll wear our masks. We’ll stay away from other people. If it gets too crowded to do that we’ll leave. But we’re looking forward to it, for sure.
I guess the thing we’re trying to do, meaning me and my friends, is figure out a way to live somewhat normally and still follow the rules, and stay safe. We managed to pull it off last weekend with a parade by our friend’s house for his birthday, and we got out of our cars, masks on, and talked to our friends from at least 6’ away. It was so lovely, to have just that half-hour of normalcy.
So, while I am not relaxing my adherence to the social distancing restrictions, I am, we are, finding ways to have our lives and adhere to these restrictions. Someday we’ll hug each other again, and eat at a restaurant playing live music, and ditch the masks. But not today, nor Monday when most restaurants open around here. I will be happy to spend my stimulus money at these places, but not quite yet. But we will get take out and bring it home. Our favorite restaurant in town was giving away free meals to seniors when the lockdown first began. So we’re planning to get take out from them next week, as the first place we’ll go. This restaurant not only won a “Best Of” award this year, and the food and service there are impeccable, but they try hard to support everyone during this time.
We’re so lucky here in Florida. The social distancing thing is so hard in places where it’s still too chilly to be outside much. I am blessed to be here, where it’s easy. I hope as the weather improves for my northern friends, they too can find a way to return to normal somewhat, restrictions still in place, but still somehow connecting in ways that are familiar to us all.
Wishing love and light to all, stay safe, stay healthy.