The Day The Town Stood Still
Dr. John W. Gilmore
The streets are almost empty where I live. They call it being sheltered. I walk the streets just for exercise. In the air of uneasy quietness I pass neighbors walking their dogs every so often . We wear masks and spread out just a little farther to keep our distance, unlike the walks in the parks I have gone on where bicyclists come rushing down narrow paths and people without masks stroll rapidly toward you never giving way.
Like everything else, spring seems to be frozen waiting for the corona virus to pass. But the animals are active, as usual on the cool, sunny day. Even they seem to be wondering what is going on as I walk past and they look at me strangely. They move more boldly than usual, probably wondering why things are so quiet and where the humans are. I suppose if I were an animal I would be delighted, and I think they are.
Most of the streets on the main drag here, on Willow Grove Avenue in Wyndmoor are closed. Only a sandwich shop, a gas station and pizza shop and Rita’s Ice Cream are open for pick up, but not going in or sitting down, just grab and go. There’s a small grocery store open where people are standing in the street; only a certain number at a time are allowed in. I ordered a hoagie today. I drove a little way up the street and went to a window with the top slid down to pick it up, which was new. It was like being in a high crime area where you pay for your food through a slot in a thick plexiglass window. I had on my mask and a masked man from inside asked what I would like. It all seemed a bit silly as I paid for my order and waited. A stranger masked like I was approached and waited, making sure to fulfill the six foot mandatory distance. I sat in my car and waited relieving myself of my green, homemade mask while listening to my Nothing Like the Sun Sting CD for just a few moments.
Upon receiving the signal I paid for my sandwich and tossed it in the front seat. I took a quick look again at the Twilight Zone like environment and began to drive home. I passed the neighborhood coffee shop, closed, and looked at several very small stores that looked closed, even if they weren’t. The 711, which is open all the time, looked lonely with very few cars sitting in the parking lot. The whole place is on lockdown. It is strange to live in a place where humans have been removed from the equation.
Even so, the animals seemed just a bit happier. The air seemed just a bit purer and the place quieter. I thought I could get used to it. A teenager popping a wheelie on a bike came shooting by right down the middle of the street in all of his teenage arrogance shattering the magic of the moment. Had I pulled out one second earlier he would have been dead. Thanks to him I could definitely understand why the animals were so happy and could actually see a positive side to being without humans.