Last night I dreamed that I awoke, showered, prayed and went to work. I got in my car and merged onto Pico Boulevard. I didn’t get far. Traffic was at a standstill. So many cars, so many people. Where are they all going and why aren’t they moving?
I wanted to make a quick stop at Starbucks and searched for parking spot in the lot. None. I had to park two blocks away and walk. I entered and stood in line behind someone ordering a drink that was so complicated, it made the barista’s head spin. I waited in frustration. “It’s just a cup of coffee!” I muttered to myself as I contemplated leaving.
Next I drove to Smart & Final near my office. After circling the parking lot twice, I finally found a spot. I headed straight to the paper goods aisle. It was fully stocked. I took one pack of toilet paper, one of paper towels and one pack of those red party cups. I headed to the one open checkout line and stood behind someone with an overflowing basket of items. “I’m going to be here all day,” I thought. Why don’t they open another line? This is crazy. Then, the person in front of me proceeded to write a check. I let out a sigh that she was sure to hear.
Then I really woke up.
I again found myself with my family in self-imposed quarantine. Like everybody else, we are not supposed to leave the house and I’m learning to appreciate quality family time, I guess. Even if we were able to leave, there’s no place to go but on a quest for toilet paper. The streets are quiet. There is plenty of parking on my block — a novelty. People have disappeared. The Pico-Robertson community that is normally so alive is like a ghost town. It is eerie and depressing.
For the past week, I have been working from home like everybody else. I never thought I would say this, but I miss the traffic on my street. I miss searching for a place to park and the bumper-to-bumper traffic. I miss the interactions with waiters at kosher restaurants who never get my order right. I am not a people person, but now I have come to appreciate interacting with people, even if they drive me crazy.
The adage that you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone has never been more true. The only thing worse than a job you hate is not having a job. The only thing worse than a selfish friend is not having any friends. The only thing worse than a crowded street lined with cars is a street with no cars and no people.
Even if we were able to leave the house, there’s no place to go but on a quest for toilet paper.
One day, things will get back to normal. We will wait in line at our favorite restaurants, deal with bosses who could be kinder, not get our favorite seat in shul, sit in traffic and attend functions we’d prefer not attending. That is normal life, and now that it has evaporated, we yearn for it to return.
As they say, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” Nobody wished for a deadly virus to spread among us, but many wished for a slower and easier life. I know I did. We have that now, and I for one can’t wait for this pandemic to retreat into the past so life can return to how it was just a month ago.
I can’t wait to again sit in traffic behind that car with the left blinker that won’t stop blinking. I long to quickly grab something at Walgreens and stand in line behind someone asking the clerk how to work the Waterpik they just bought. I will be thrilled to help someone at Ralphs who can’t work the self-checkout machine.
And I long for the day I can venture out of my house and not look like a worker from Chernobyl. Rubber gloves and a face mask are not good looks.
That day can’t come soon enough.
Harvey Farr is a Los Angeles-based marketing consultant, writer and photographer.