The lockdown has been modified, and no doubt you have questions. I don’t know why you’re ignoring sections of the newspaper with actual facts in order to ask me, but I’ll try to help.
What is open, and when?
The day after a ban is lifted, there is no shopping on the parkway and main thoroughfares until 9 p.m. On the second day, you can shop on the odd-numbered side of the street. On the third day, you can shop on the even-numbered side.
I’m kidding, of course, but why not? We have extensive training with this system.
Are malls open?
Yes, and I’m going. I’ll wear a wet suit and scuba gear, but I’m going. On any given afternoon, the number of people in the men’s area of a department store is about 1/50th of what you’ll find in an aisle at Target. You’re not exactly elbow-to-elbow with other shoppers. If someone sneezed over by fitted shirts, the virus would die of boredom by the time it got halfway to socks.
How much human contact is allowed?
You can have a meeting with up to nine other people. And the order the governor issued last week specifies gatherings in houses of worship, so, to be safe, you should hold the meeting in a church.
That might not be the biggest challenge some people face. These are the ones who say, “Gosh, I just moved here 14 years ago, and I don’t know nine people yet. My social circle is still pretty much me and a friend from the gym — well, not a close friend, but we nod to each other if we’re working out at the same time. And if we saw each other in the street, we’d probably nod, although maybe only if we were in workout clothes. Also, I’m pretty sure the guy in the drive-through window at McDonald’s knows me by now.
“But I’m not sure I can rustle up nine people. Is this because native Minnesotans are clannish and don’t invite strangers into their long-established social networks? If I ever get to know one, I’ll have to ask.”
Keep in mind that once you get everyone together, you still must maintain a distance between them of at least 6 feet. This might result in some of the attendees needing to use Zoom to participate in the small talk.
That doesn’t make sense.
Neither did taking down the tennis court nets, but here we are, bucko. And what’s the deal with those tiny containers of pepper you get on an airplane meal? Are they afraid I’ll disturb the subtle, balanced flavor of the food with too much pepper? Don’t get me started on how people drive around here!
Are you OK?
No, not really. I’ve been watching too many grade-B Netflix stand-up specials.
How about bars? Can we go to bars and restaurants?
Absolutely! You can go there as often as you want, you just can’t go inside.
Oh, you wanted to go inside, as well? Look, we’re doing this in stages. First phase: You can go there and you can’t get in. Second phase: You can go in, but there’s a 14-day wait for a table. Third phase: You can sit down and order.
Then it will be just like it used to be?
Not exactly. Some places won’t have menus, because they won’t want to disinfect them, so the waiter will describe everything. If you are at Perkins, this will take about 40 minutes. If they do have a menu, you will have to handle it with oven mitts, after which the menu will be dunked in bleach, then burned.
So, things are getting better?
It’s complex, but I’m an optimist. Some day the fortnightly status report will not show a man running for a small plane while reporters trail him, shouting questions, and he won’t stop and say, “All is lost! Make your peace with whatever God gives you solace,” before flying off to an undisclosed location.
When that happens, I’m chalking it up as a win.