Friday, April 24, 2020

A Path Forward, and the Horvaths

Another day, more lounging in the garden, more dog walks, more reading, more gardening. Like all of us, I am trapped in a monotonous loop. It seems ungrateful to complain given how much we do have -- outdoor space and fine weather, not to mention our health -- but I must admit I'm getting pretty sick of this lockdown situation.

Many other people are, too. When I take the dog out I see lots of people milling around, sitting on the park benches, on blankets in the grass, visiting and chatting. I am sure all those people don't live in the same household with each other. I was Zooming with my co-workers yesterday and we all agreed more people seem to be ignoring the restrictions.

And I'm just experiencing mild frustration. Imagine how people feel who have lost jobs and livelihoods. (Not to mention loved ones.)

On March 20 I said we'd be emerging from this situation in six weeks. Obviously that was wildly optimistic and we're still not there. But some world leaders -- the Germans, the Danish -- are talking about how to carefully open up the economy again, in ways that might be less dangerous but that will get people and goods moving. I think this is a good thing. We need a publicly stated plan. Otherwise, where are we going with all this? If people don't see light at the end of the tunnel I worry we're going to start seeing civil unrest.

I wonder, for example, if it would be OK to allow certain small businesses or shops to reopen -- bookstores, or florists, or dry cleaners. Perhaps businesses in more rural areas, where there's a sort of natural social distancing, could be given more latitude. (All this assumes people maintain social distancing in their own interactions, as well as hand-washing and other basic infection-control measures.)

What if restaurants that have outdoor seating can open those areas for table service, keeping distance between tables?

I just don't know what the answer is. I'm no epidemiologist. Inevitably, people are going to continue to get sick. This virus isn't going away. Meanwhile, the rest of us have to continue with our lives. It's a balance, and possibly one that shifts and fluctuates over time. In years to come, maybe we'll see periods of closure interspersed with periods of openness.

We went out and applauded the NHS again last night, along with all our neighbors. Of course those are the people who really have to be protected -- the ones on the front lines, helping to fight this thing while potentially exposing themselves.

In other news, our upstairs neighbors are installing pigeon-proofing spikes on their patio railings. I think they're annoyed with us because we have bird feeders which, along with all the garden songbirds we like, inevitably also attract pigeons. I'm not sure what to do about that. Pigeons are a fact of urban life, aren't they?

Here's "Throwback Thursday," one day late. ("Flashback Friday," maybe?)

I came across this photo yesterday, showing me (the blurry kid in front, obviously) sitting with some other kids during a dinner party my parents attended. It was held at the home of the Horvaths, who I believe they knew from the University of Maryland, where my dad was getting his Ph.D. in mathematics. I was about two years old, and I dimly remember this night because I quite dramatically fell down the stairs at the Horvaths' house! (I was always falling down stairs. Our own house didn't have stairs, and I wasn't the most coordinated kid, so it took me a while to get the hang of them.) I think this photo was taken pre-fall, but in any case, I didn't seriously injure myself. I screamed a lot, though, and the incident freaked me out enough to imprint itself on my memory!

Oddly, I don't think we were ever asked back to the Horvaths'.

I wonder where those other kids are now? I don't even know who they are. Horvath daughters, maybe.

(Top photo: Golders Green, on Sunday.)


Yorkshire Pudding said...

As a friendly gesture, couldn't you give your upstairs neighbours a bag of bird seed so that they can also feed the pigeons? We get wood pigeons and collared doves in our garden. I love them as much as I love all birds. Perhaps you could also buy your neighbours "Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird" by Andrew Blachman. Interesting thoughts on lockdown. I don't know what the answer is but I do not want to die - not yet anyway.

Steve Reed said...

No one does, and I'm not advocating anything immediate. As I said, we're not there yet. I don't want to be "Trumpian" in our approach -- we need to be scientific about it. But I think the government needs to start talking publicly about options and how this might eventually play out.

Moving with Mitchell said...

I love the story of that photo. My mother liked to tell the story of the last time they were invited to the home of some neighbors. They had, unusually for them, dropped by unexpectedly with my sister who was about 2 at the time, not realizing the family was hosting a birthday party. They asked my parents to stay and my sister threw up in their living room. Shame on the Horvaths for not forgiving you for simply falling down the steps ... and screaming.

I wish there were one person in this world with the answers to all the questions about this virus and what should be done. We have no idea when we'll be again able to leave the house together, to simply go for a stroll, or to walk on the beach, let alone when restaurants and shops will open again... and we'll be able to hug our friends and neighbors, which is a way of life here in Southern Spain.

Fresca said...

I have to admit, I hugged a friend yesterday. (Both masked, but...)

I watched an epidemiologist who said quarantine never works as well as it should because humans are so social, they simply won't stay apart.

Maybe countries should re-open businesses when they start to test people for antibodies, to see if they've already been infected.
The U of Minnesota here says it's getting close to being able to do that on a large scale.

Whether you can be reinfected remains unknown, but it looks like you are probably immune for a while, anyway.

"South Korea has tested a much bigger portion of its citizens than the United States has, allowing it to reduce infections and without stopping its economy."

Fresca said...

P.S. I read somewhere that you should never leave links in comments--these aren't academic footnotes.
But... have I mentioned I used to be a librarian? So hard to break the habit of backing up one's statements with references! Please forgive me.

Ms. Moon said...

What a precious picture! You remind me of Levon there.
So in Georgia, starting today, you can now get a tattoo and a massage! No problem! Even Trump thinks it's too early for that. And Georgia is how close to me? Oh yeah, about ten miles. If we are learning one thing its that viruses don't respect borders. Or economies.
Could you perhaps talk to your landlord about the pigeon spikes? Why would anyone dislike birds coming to their yard? I don't grasp the concept.

Sharon said...

I've had that same fear of the civil unrest. Especially now that protestors to the shut down have started marching around town, many of them carrying semi-automatic weapons.
I love the throw-back photo. It reminds me so much of my own old family photos.

The Bug said...

I've been surprised to find that I'm just as social as the next person. My one day of the week of working from home is HARD - I'm exhausted at the end of the day & not good for anything.

I worry about the economy & the fact that it doesn't look like this is just going to go away, but I also worry about all the people who will die if we don't use good sense when we reopen everything.

Red said...

You've had a good look at the virus situation. I think we have to err on the side of caution unless we want to have this best with us until we get a suitable Vaccine. The beast spreads too easily and has a pretty high death rate so I wouldn't bet against the beast.

Anonymous said...

Not sure when things will be able to slowly reopen. I think erring on the side of caution is the best way to proceed, although it is boring as hell. These are scary times, and having the lunatic in the White House is not helping things at all. Ugh.

That is quite a photo and memory of that day.

Kayni said...

Old photos, especially from our childhood, are priceless.

Today, Gov. Hogan will be announcing how to lead Maryland to recovery, so I'm curious how this re-opening is going to be. As of now, we'll be on stay-at-home order until May 15. My husband and I are making the most of our time at home - cleaning, cooking, playing with the furies and more.

Edna B said...

You were an adorable little boy. As for the spikes on the window ledge, that should be outlawed. It should be a crime to intentionally hurt animals and birds. I'm thinking that things will start to open soon, very slowly. At least in some places. There's definitely a light at the end of the tunnel. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

ellen abbott said...

I can understand why your upstairs neighbors don't like the pigeons pooping on the railings and balcony but really, it's not your problem and I wouldn't lose any sleep over it. we don't have pigeons out here in this rural area, at least not out where I am. maybe in town but come to think of it, I don't recall ever seeing any.

I don't see how sit down restaurants can keep the 6' distance. how can the servers serve and the clear the tables? and Kemp is an idiot, a democrat groveling at Trump's feet. Kemp is doing exactly what Trump wants and Trump's about face is only a tactic so that he has plausible deniability about encouraging states to open up already if it seriously goes south. he can say he told Kemp he didn't think it was a good idea. and because Kemp is a democrat it will be used as a political tool.

Catalyst said...

Your dad had a PhD in Mathematics and you hate calculus? There's something wrong there, Steve.
I was a math major, for awhile, in college but switched to English midway through Advanced Calculus. Now, I have no memory of what it was about. I used Algebra for years but I think I've now lost that too. So it goes.

Some states here are beginning to open up and Dr. Trump disapproves, except on the days that he approves. As someone tweeted midway through his news conference yesterday, "It's time for some gin!"

Sarah said...

I love the mini dining table they gave you, and your story about falling down stairs. Hopefully you got better at stairs as you got bigger. The thing I have noticed changing is the amount of traffic on the road. I have to drive to Woolwich once a day to feed the cat I am looking after, and there is loads of cars compared to a couple of weeks ago. Nothing like normal levels, but much more.

Alphie Soup said...

Ah, the Golder's Green photo. A revisiting of those former days when your photos were often street scenes with a few people. I miss them.
In a way I see your point about relaxing the lockdown. I feel that if people are kept informed about what might happen next they might not be so restless.
As for the crowds milling around and appearing to flout the rules, that's the nature of people who feel they can do what they like.
That's why there are jails, for more serious law breakers of course, but nonetheless, lawbreakers.
A topic for endless debate.

Steve Reed said...

Mitchell: I love that story about your sister. I'm glad I didn't vomit. That IS pretty much the ultimate social indiscretion.

Fresca: I must admit I struggle to understand the role of testing in all of this. I understand that identifying people who have been exposed could be helpful, but then are people who haven't been exposed required to stay home while others go about their business? It seems like it could lead to a sort of discrimination, a coronavirus apartheid. I'm not saying we shouldn't test, but I don't clearly understand how that's going to work. (And don't worry --I don't mind links in comments! I leave them occasionally myself, also -- like you -- wanting to cite my sources.)

Ms Moon: Our landlord doesn't own the upstairs unit -- that is owned by the Russians, and they can put up spikes if they want to. It's not really a problem for us and it won't hurt the pigeons. I just feel bad that they feel the need to do so, but like you, I don't quite understand it.

Sharon: Yeah, these crazy gun-toting people! Who knows what will happen?!

Bug: I know. It's a balancing act, like I said. There are no good answers. I wish we could just stuff this virus into a garbage bag and pretend it never happened.

Red: I agree, erring on the side of caution is wise. But there is a substantial amount of collateral damage. We have to consider all factors. Mostly, I just want the government in the UK to make clear its plans. (To the extent that it knows them.) So many of the decisions about how to handle this virus and the lockdown are being made in secret.

Robin: It's so frustrating that we can't count on any true leadership in the White House.

Kayni: Hello! That's basically what we're doing here -- domestic stuff and spending time with the dog. It will be interesting to see how looser restrictions affect the infection curves.

Edna: The spikes don't hurt the birds -- they just keep them from landing. They're commonly used in all big cities. I don't understand why people hate pigeons so much, though, I must admit!

Ellen: I just feel guilty for attracting the pigeons in the first place. But yeah, they're just a fact of city life. As for restaurants, clearing and serving would be tricky, but what if people picked up their own food from a serving island, or something like that? And then bused their own tables? I don't know. It doesn't seem like it would expose staff any worse than people in grocery stores or shops are potentially exposed.

Catalyst: BOTH of my parents were college-level math instructors. I can barely add!

Sarah: I saw an article in the Guardian that said traffic levels have ticked up two or three percent. People are slowly loosening things up on their own, it seems.

Alphie: Yeah, I miss taking photos like that! And yes, there are always people who break the rules. Particularly younger people who feel invincible. I understand it -- I'd probably feel that way too if I were still in my 20s or 30s.

37paddington said...

I can see your face in that two year old. Funny how we are who we are from the very beginning.