Last night I headed over to the airport to see what was going on and got two rides. The new waiting lot is nice because it faces the east runway and is closer to the terminals. But it’s still not like it was before and I honestly don’t know if or when it will come back up to pre-COVID levels.
I was talking with one of my passengers yesterday and I told him everything you thought was a sure thing wasn’t. As I was on the road last night, I felt like everything was an illusion. It felt like it was just a dulled-down version of what life was like before this pandemic. Yeah, you’ll see people out and about but nothing like before.
Before the pandemic hit, I was tracking pretty good with the driving and the Spring and Summer months looked like they were going to be huge. San Antonio was seeing huge amounts of visitors and tourist traffic, wedding season was about to start, and people seemed to want to get out and about. As I was telling one of my passengers last night, I loved driving back then. No two days were the same and Saturday nights were hugely-entertaining. Now… it just feels hollow.
I was trying to think when I felt that hollow feeling on the road and the only time I can remember is 9/11. I wasn’t an Uber driver back then (I don’t think the concept of Uber was even a twinkle on some Silicon Valley bro’s ass back then). I was working in my first call-center job (where managers actually were downplaying what was happening and told us not to talk about it- yes that place was that fucked-up). That afternoon I drove across town to pick up my mom from work and Loop 1604 barely had any traffic but what was especially eerie was the lack of airplanes in the air. Back then like pre-COVID, there were always airplanes coming and going over the 1604 corridor.
Another eerie-hollow time was back in March after the initial lockdown when I was downtown. All the big hotels and bars were closed and the restaurants were take-out only. It was like a ghost-down, or a San Antonio version of ’28 Days Later’. I was pretty bummed out going down South Alamo Street in front of the Alamo until this group of bicyclists came by me ringing their bells and waving to me. I waved back and thought, “Okay, I wasn’t expecting that.” But it made me smile, which was desperately needed as business had nose-dived pretty badly at that point.
Last night, I was talking with one of my passengers and she was wondering about Halloween. I said people could practice social distancing while trick-or-treating but the big haunted houses or gatherings were probably off the table. I also said I’m sure downtown will decorate for Christmas but I’m not sure if they’ll put the ice-skating rink in Travis Park up again. That was fun last year to see and weekends down there were hugely-crowded.
The thing is, we’ve all changed. Everything has changed. I think right now the shock is still wearing off and we’re trying to adjust and not lose it altogether. Working from home, kids out of school, people being assholes… whether this is a blip on the radar of years or something longer-term, or something that will come and go remains to be seen.
I’ve struggled to put this all into words because although I’ve enjoyed the lack of real traffic (only time the freeways get jammed if there is an accident now- the bottlenecks are nothing like they used to be). But I also wonder if this is just the calm before another storm of infections and hospitalizations rise up again. Hopefully most of us will keep our heads out of our asses and mask-up and social distance and practice good hygiene for as long as we need to.
Personally, I like the social distancing thing. And masking-up during the Fall and Winter when cold-and-flu might not be a bad idea.
But I want to ask myself a few thing here:
Will we ever take for granted the idea of big crowded events? Or will there be an ingrained wariness of them?
Will the bar and music scene fully recover?
Will the strippers be able to get back to work?
And most of all,
How will we explain the runs on toilet paper to future generations?