The Ordinary Citizen’s Guide to America’s Reopening - America's Future Foundation

May 18, 2020

Culture

The Ordinary Citizen’s Guide to America’s Reopening

By: Lydia Pitea

It’s happening. America is on the road to reopening the economy (whatever that actually means).

Wherever you stand on the reopening debate, sooner or later things will all be open again. Depending on how safe or gutsy you feel, you may continue with some of the safety measures of quarantine or not. Each individual will have to make decisions on how to proceed in this new normal. 

I’m no expert on the reopening. 

I’m just your ordinary concerned citizen with lots of thoughts and feelings on the matter. So I thought I’d take all of my reopening angst and channel it into helping you wade through your own. It’s better to mull these issues over now, before you are confronted with a situation that may make you feel less than comfortable in the near future.

Reopening: Draw Your Own Boundaries
The new normal: really it’s up to you what that will look like. 

Truly, no one will care if you still stay away from your barber or nail salon for another month or two. No one will look twice if you continue to wear a mask on a crowded city street or in grocery stores. Similarly, people aren’t getting too up in arms anymore if you aren’t.

It’s good to start thinking now about where your boundaries lie in reopening. 

Think of Travel. That family trip coming up in July – do you feel safe enough with a mask on and wipes, etc. to still get on the plane? If not, don’t let your family goad you into it. You are a strong, independent millennial, and you can make your own decisions! Truth be told if you are stressed and worried about getting sick, the trip will already be off to a bad start. Add your nagging family to that and relaxation is the last thing you will feel. Take a trip if it feels right and makes sense, or even offer an alternate trip idea like camping or a cabin in the woods type of deal. 

Think of Social Gatherings. What about going out with friends to bars and restaurants? Maybe you still feel wary of sitting so close to strangers? Speak up! Try suggesting places with open patios, rooftops, and decks. If your friends are truly worthy of the title, they will understand and try to accommodate you when they can. Plus, it’s almost summer and patios are better anyways! Not ready to do that either? Offer to cook something and have friends out to your deck or patio that way you are far from any “stranger danger.”

Think of Retail. Are you going to maintain the current processes you’ve set up for receiving the items your household needs to subsist? Are there small businesses you’d rather support, but aren’t sure if they have the ability to serve you in the way you feel most comfortable? Honestly, I’d say just ask them. Right now small businesses are in dire need of customers. They are bending over backwards to maintain the ones who have stuck with them in this time and are pulling out all the stops to draw in new ones. I’d encourage you to try and add them back into your buying habits, but of course, it’s what makes you feel safest. 

Think of Special Gatherings. There are other situations where you may need to consider your proximity or alter your practice to allow for greater safety measures to be added. I’m thinking of your church going, social clubs, and even intramural sports leagues. If your church opens up, but is one that’s always tightly packed, continue on with the virtual church. If you’re worried they will stop offering it, make it known how you feel. Chances are there are others in your congregation that would prefer to stay home as well. If you lead a small group, think through ways to begin meeting in person again, even if it means doing so outside from now on or in even smaller, mini groups. For sports, maybe switch from high contact sports (rugby, Frisbee, soccer) to lower contact sports (tennis, volleyball if you’re careful) to avoid all that touching. I hear golf is… nice.

Things to Change
This new normal doesn’t have to be terrible and bad. 

I’m not one to enjoy a crowded space (I hate touching strangers in a big way), but most of my favorite activities implicitly encourage them. Concerts, festivals, dance halls, museums – whatever it is, you can likely find me in the center of a crowd in my down time. That being said, those things are either going to figure out creative ways to dramatically change and still occur this summer, or as I fear, we may simply have to do without for the time being. 

If that happens, we’ll need to find new (safe) ways to connect and enjoy each other’s company face to face. Here is where we can make some small changes to what we used to do and maintain the cool, good things that the dreaded Rona brought about. 

I’m already planning how to host game nights as a picnic version on the yard near my apartment and lining up some fun outdoorsy day trips so this summer won’t feel quite so different from others. I know many are mad about the beach, but I think that’s another way I can do a favorite summer activity and still stay away from others (I can make sure to place my blanket far from other humans and generally keep my distance). The same can be said for hiking (choose less popular trails) and kayaking on the Potomac (just wash your hands and don’t touch your face!). 

Things to Stay the Same
Some cool things that I didn’t used to do, but will keep in my circulation of “people time activities” are my virtual hangs and my newfound love for battlefields and forts in the DMV. I had never been to a battlefield or fort since moving to the area, but did you know that we have like, a lot of them…? Did you know that they also tend to be wide open spaces and not heavily trafficked? I did not, but now I do! My friends and I are slowly trying to go to every single one in the area. I even made an Insta story to capture all of our excursions #WalkingtheLauren. 

And as a side benefit for yours truly, in light of the whole no restaurants situation, I’ve been able to make my dating life less formal, stressful, and generally lower stakes, A.K.A. a lot more fun! While I do miss getting gussied up, I love that I do not have to maintain perfect charming conversation for two hours over a meal in full-face makeup. Instead, I make my guys go on nice chill walks with me, 6 feet apart. It’s a misanthrope’s dream date! I have seen from a few others that dating has become more creative in this time and has forced intentionality (big net positives for singles everywhere!). The lackluster, complacent daters are getting more quickly tossed aside allowing for the people who really want to date and find their somebody – less clutter to have to wade through. All in all, I’m hoping these changes are here to stay!  

As for the virtual world, my dnd (Dungeons and Dragons, you plebes) will still meet virtually. I’m also happy to say that coronavirus did create a new norm of virtual happy hours with friends from far away that I hope to maintain semi-regularly even when life starts to get busy again. I missed these people dearly and didn’t even realize how much until I was able to have them in my life all the time again! 

Your New Normal
Things have to change, but change can be good. Sure, this summer will look different from last year’s. Who even knows what the holidays will be like this year (I’m not emotionally prepared to think about what I will do if I can’t be at a candlelit service on Christmas Eve). What I do know is that people are resilient and creative. With some elbow grease and brainstorming we can make life as social and fun as it’s always been, even while maintaining personal boundaries and watching out for our “high risk” buddies. 

It’s still true that life is what you make it. So make quarantimes also fun times!