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Venturing to a Restaurant for First Time Since March

What is Real; What is Not?

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Gilbert's security tapes off every other boat slip to maintain distancing despite being open.

It’s a rainy Mother’s Day in the Keys. I look out the window and feel a little stuck, not from quarantine at the moment but from the weather.

For the past week, Florida’s social restrictions have been eased. Yesterday, we even ate at a restaurant for the first time in almost two months. It was a beautiful day, and we put the boat in the water at a ramp in Tavernier and headed up to Gilbert’s about 15 miles north.

When we arrived, we tied up the boat in a boat slip. Later on, as we were leaving, Gilbert’s security began taping off every other boat slip so that boats would be docked far enough apart.

Staff wore masks as they took our orders and delivered food. We had masks with us, but we didn’t wear them; we were far from other tables at the outdoor bar and restaurant.

I didn’t know how I was going to feel about going into a restaurant. Honestly, I didn’t know if we were just going to pass Gilbert’s and go snook fishing under the bridge or if we were going to stop. When Jim pulled the boat in to the dock, I just went with it.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the Keys has not dwindled. There are currently 89 cases confirmed and still only three deaths. The Keys are still closed to tourists and visitors, which made Gilbert’s a relaxing, friendly place to go. Of course, we saw the occasional power boat zipping past us, presumable from Corona-infested Miami, on the way there. But what can you do, right? Everyone at Gilbert’s, though, looked like a local, from their relaxed island garb and hair to their warm and friendly smiles to their Costa, Oakley, Flying Fisherman, or Maui Jim sunglasses. Locals just have that island look to them, and none of our boats are built to surpass the sound barrier.

Plus, we recognize each other. Pulling in to a dock, Jim recognized some friends from the sandbar. Jose works security at Turkey Point, a nuclear facility about 20 miles north of Gilbert’s, and Jose’s wife is a nurse at a local nursing home.

In talking with the nurse from about 12 feet away at the table over from the couple, we learned that she has administered about 500 Coronavirus tests. Of those test, only three were positive. Of those three, only one person had any symptoms. The more we talked to her, the more confident I felt about being in public for the first time in a couple months.

She did say that a relative of theirs had been on a ventilator after becoming infected from the virus. “But that’s all we’ve seen firsthand,” she finished.

Jose said that several of his employees quit working for him because his wife was a nurse at a nursing home; they said they felt that he — and therefore they — would be at risk to acquiring COVID-19 due to her position.

Jim and I looked at each other and commented about how crazy that is to quit a job in an economically unstable time like this because your boss’s wife is a nurse. Economic survival of the fittest, we guessed.

I don’t know, though, if we could blame them. Right now it seems like that was a stupid decision. But a month ago, in the midst of this panic, who knows what we would have done if we were in their position. Perhaps they had elderly or families they needed to think about. With the media talking about nothing but the overcrowded hospitals in New York and other big cities around the country as well as the number of deaths in Italy and around the world, would we have reacted the same way?

We don’t hear about that much anymore, even though the number of cases seem to be increasing. And all of a sudden, sitting unmasked at a beautiful, tropical, island beach sipping a margarita and working on a bowl of lobster bisque, it all seemed… fake.

I’m not saying that Coronavirus is fake; it’s real. I’m not saying people haven’t died; they have. There are just so many questions that are unanswered, and nobody is asking them or getting sufficient answers.

For example, I would like to know if the economic standstill for the last two months has been in vain. States are opening up restaurants. Tomorrow, hair salons across Florida will be back in business. With the “official” numbers of cases increasing, did our economy suffer for nothing? Did we overestimate the impact of the actual virus and underestimate the impacts of our government’s response to it? Did we just postpone the effects of Coronavirus for two months?

I don’t want to be the conspiracy theorist. But something just doesn’t make sense. Without assigning blame anywhere, I wonder did we all need something like an evil virus to get us to band together in a highly politically divisive world? Did we all need a common villain to unite us?

Throughout this ordeal, my thoughts and feelings have been scattered all over the gambit. It hasn’t mattered very much to me personally, though. Unlike many others, my job is pretty secure. I can pay my bills. So I just follow the rules while trying to support and help my community and those who need help the best I can either from my home or while wearing a mask and gloves. But now, we’re about to venture out again, and I have to think about how I actually feel about the safety of myself and others, and I have virtually no reliable information to base my decisions on… just a president who suggests ingesting household cleaners to kill the virus and a governor who says COVID-19 only effects the elderly and puts his mask on incorrectly on live TV.

These are the people telling me it’s safe to go to a restaurant and now a hair salon. These are the people people who told me these places weren’t safe two months ago. They continue to tell us what to do and what not to as the news continues to report “the numbers” and the press releases sent to them by these officials and stories about how to clean our car door handles.

In a world where every person has access to mass communication and boundless information, it’s the only time I can ever remember not having anything real to cling to.

I post a photo of my mom and I on Facebook and wish her Happy Mother’s Day.

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