Dispatches From the Western Front: Open and Serving

Life and Times in the Era of COVID-19, by Father Time

By Taylor García

The Foreseeable Future

On any given day, the shopping center across from our community is a buzzing hive of commerce.

IKEA, one of the three mega-chain anchor stores beckons would-be interior designers with its Day-Glo yellow entrance. Next door, Lowe’s Home Improvement entices with a lush garden center and rows of shining bar-b-que grills. And across the football field-sized parking lot is Costco, the crown jewel of American consumerism.

Rounding out the perimeter of this shopping mecca is IHOP, Starbucks, McDonald's, Cold Stone Creamery, Subway, a Sports Clips barbershop, and one of our most favorite places, a branch of the public library. We don’t have to travel far to get what we need.

These days, however, the place is New Year’s Day-empty. All the restaurants have new banners up that read, “Open for Delivery or Pick Up Only.” The owner of Sports Clips posted a typewritten sign in which you can hear the emotion in her voice: “We’re taking it one day at a time and staying closed until the situation improves. We want to keep all of you safe.”

It’s been only three weeks since the Governor of California issued a shelter-in-place order for the entire state. I was washing dishes when my wife shared the news. My heart sank, but I knew it was coming. It was the same feeling I had when our public school district and our preschool announced school would be canceled for the foreseeable future.

That’s what this phase is: the foreseeable future. Could be another four or six or eight weeks, maybe longer. Likely longer.

So what do we do? We keep on living. Living across from a shopping town, we haven’t forgotten about it. We’ve since taken over the parking lot as our own post-apocalyptic playground, riding our bikes right over the lines of empty spaces.

We haven’t dared set foot in Costco. But we have called in for pick up orders from our favorite restaurants, once to Islands, the Hawaiian-themed burger joint, and the other to Oggi’s, our local pizza brewpub.

They answered our call with such sweet customer service, and they thanked us profusely for coming in. Their “homes” are empty, too. Their tables bare and wiped down indefinitely.

There was another restaurant, a new Vietnamese pho place in a quiet corner of the mall. They were just about to have their Grand Opening. They too have unrolled their new banner. Open and serving.

Just like our healthcare workers, who are on the front lines of this battle, those who keep us fed are, too. They still care about nourishment, preparation, and the experience. We’ll all be back to dine in one day. At least, that’s the hope.

Photo by Taylor García

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