Long before we were all confined to our homes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, I would take semi-regular walks around my neighbourhood.
And because I live in a densely populated area, I’d inevitably come across other people – dog walkers, kids riding bikes, or young families out for a stroll.
My usual circuit takes about 40 minutes, and, on average, I might get one ‘hello’ from a passerby. Two on a good day.
I’ve probably handed out the same; I’m more of a quick-eye-contact-and-polite-head-nod kind of guy.
But the world has changed since then. Maybe you’ve noticed.
Now, in this age of self-isolation, the smiles, the waves, the hellos – they’re out in force.
On a recent weekend constitutional, every single person I came within a socially-acceptable two-metres of said hello.
Everyone was smiling, too – which I found odd, considering there isn’t much worth smiling about these days.
Jobs have been cut, people are sick, schools are closed…. but then it hit me: We’re outside. That’s why everyone is so damn happy.
We’re prisoners on day parole, and we all know it.
Sure, we have to go back inside soon, but can you believe this weather right now?
Admittedly, the opportunity to be outdoors is something you’d normally take for granted, or file under ‘small victories’ at the most, but these days, you take the positives where you can find them. Like the prisoners in Shawshank Redemption assigned to tar the roof of that penitentiary building, sometimes we’re just happy to feel the sun on our shoulders.
For whatever reason, I’ve found these short walks bring me a strange amount of comfort, which is in extremely short supply for a lot of us these days, as we wake up every morning stressed about what might come next.
Is that layoff finally coming? Do I qualify for CERB? When we’ve watched literally everything there is to watch on Netflix, what then?
Will someone I love get the virus? How long is the line going to be at the grocery store today?
What if I run out of beer?
Seriously, how many times can we watch Friends?
No wonder we all need a little air.
Usually, my wife accompanies me on these walks. Like me, she’s working from home, and relishes the opportunity to escape the house, if even for the briefest of moments.
It’s also proof that we haven’t got sick of each other yet – not even last week when, upon noticing that we were wearing the same business-casual attire (black sweats, sky-blue hoodies), my wife referred to us as a “quaran-team.”
That was a close one.
We got through it though, just as we continue to get through each hour of each day, watching reruns of old sitcoms, drinking too much coffee, and dreaming, like Andy Dufresne in the aforementioned Shawshank, of the day when this is all over and we come out clean on the other side.
In the meantime, I guess we’ll just keep walking.
Be sure to say hello.
Nick Greenizan is a reporter at the Peace Arch News.