Author, Just up the Pike, and transportation planner at Toole Design Group.
How has your life changed since the community has been impacted by Coronavirus?
Growing up I spent a lot of time watching TV and in the summers I didn’t have places to go – I was stuck in the house all day. So some days I joke that I’ve been training for this all my life.
I’m working from home and I’m still getting paid. I have an office here at home and I’m able to shut the door, which in some ways is better than a cube at work.
We’ve been getting a lot of exercise – going on a lot of walks. And I’ve been reflecting on the things I miss. I realize the things I miss are simple: like I miss going to a restaurant and just sitting in that restaurant. I miss hugs. I miss the routine of seeing people after work. There were a couple of concerts I had planned to go in March that got cancelled and that’s a bummer.
I had planned to speak at a conference in Portland, which also got cancelled. The irony was that was on my birthday – so I spent my birthday at home, which created a new problem. I spent several weeks fretting over where I was going to get a cake. My favorite bakery closed. William and our friend May surprised me with a big chocolate cake the night of my birthday. We did give a couple slices away, discreetly dropping them on people’s porches. I look forward to celebrating my birthday some way when this all over.
Are you working more or less?
I changed my schedule. I used to work 4 days a week. I’ve found it’s hard to sit at my desk for 8 hours a day. I now do 5 6-hour days. I get a later start on the day, which is nice. Some days are harder than others. Mondays are still hard.
What are you most afraid of?
I worry about money. We have plenty of savings. But I sometimes wonder how long we’ll be able to last if things get really bad.
I also hope that people don’t use social distancing as an excuse to indulge their own nastiness. I’ve seen the way people behave in public, like when I go out and see people who just look scared of other people. I really hope people are able to bounce back from that.
The other thing that scares me are those who feel that they should dictate how other people should live at this time. Like, posting a photo on social media of children playing basketball and saying that’s not okay. It’s a privilege to have a big house and a yard and be able to quarantine yourself comfortably. A lot of people in our community may not have that, and being at home isn’t a great experience for everyone, especially if your home is crowded or if you just don’t have a good home life. I feel bad for folks who are in bad domestic situations at this time. Or I think about when my mom and other members of my family moved here in the 70s. They lived in a crowded apartment and my uncle said if you wanted alone time, you had to go to a park. Folks who want to post on Facebook about kids playing outside should butt out and focus on their own stuff.
What are you most hopeful for?
It makes me hopeful to see people who are stepping up to help those in need. Also, our neighbors on the block have a drum jam and people come out and bang on an instrument of their choice. It’s fun and we’ve met a lot of neighbors that way.
I don’t know that I want to live the rest of my life on zoom, but it is cool to see how people are taking advantage of the technology that is available today. I’m also curious to see how this will change everything. This is one of those moments like 9/11, where there was life before and life was after. It will be interesting to see how life will change for the better and for the worse.
What has been the most challenging part of this experience for you?
It’s hard always knowing what you’re supposed to do. The uncertainty of the situation has been challenging. Here’s a simple example of what I mean: I had planned to buy myself a bike for my birthday. At first, the stay-at-home order was voluntary. It was unclear if bike stores would be declared essential, so I rushed to the bike store to get a bike. That kind of uncertainty has been challenging.
Is there anything – even a tiny thing – you enjoy or like about sheltering in place?
We moved into our house in November and before the shelter in place order we were both working so much that we didn’t get much time to actually be at home. Over the last few weeks we’ve really gotten to know every part of the house. I’ve gotten to start house projects, too. It’s been nice watching the seasons change. We have a lot of trees that I can see from our window, and watching buds bloom to flowers and give way to leaves has given me a new appreciation for the passage of time. Spring is always busy for me, so during this is the time of year I’m always wishing I could slow down and take stock of things and I’ve gotten that a little bit.
What do you think society as a whole will learn from this experience?
I hope all those people who don’t normally wash their hands will start washing their hands. I already felt the world was kinda gross before this. This has only confirmed my suspicions.
How are you coping with stress/taking care of yourself?
We are always working on making sure we each have enough alone time. That can be challenging. I’m also trying not to indulge bad food habits. During this time last year when I was stressed out I would eat out more – I would go and get fast food. This year I’m trying to do that less. I still have all of my favorite sweets in the house, but I’m trying to portion control and eat sparingly.
When future generations ask, what will you tell them about this time in your life?
I’m probably going to say it was fine for us and awful for a lot of other people.
What would you like your friends and neighbors in Silver Spring/Montgomery County to know?
Stop snitching on your neighbors for doing things you don’t personally approve of.