Indoor Dining and Covid

On Thursday, March 12, 2020, Susie and I were sitting in the living room of our Cousins Jeanne and Walt’s place in Barefoot Bay, Florida. The two of them had left that day for a month in Hawaii, and Susie and I were looking forward to spending the rest of the month in their house acting like we were Florida residents, before heading home to New Jersey and another knee replacement for me. Yes, we knew all about the pandemic, and the cases of Covid that had been reported in the country and even in our home state, but we were still weighing our options and deciding exactly how much it was going to affect our Florida stay.

That was until we got the news that MLB, the NHL, NCAA, and every other sports acronym you can think of were canceling their games. Then in quick succession, Broadway, Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando announced that they were closing, and our discussion turned to whether we wanted to be stuck in Florida, or if we wanted to be in our little beach town in New Jersey! In our minds, the very real possibility existed that states would be closing access, and that if we didn’t get home ASAP, we might not be able to travel north on I-95 to the Garden State. That was the moment we decided that it was time to bring our Florida 2020 Adventure to a close, and get back as fast as possible to Ocean City!

Early in the morning on Friday, March 13th, we closed up Jeanne and Walt’s house, turned off the water, put the garbage out, and hit the road! Within a half hour, we were on Interstate 95 heading north. We decided to not stop two nights on our way home, as we usually did, but to rather get home in just two days, driving more each day, and just spending one night in a hotel. That decision meant we would miss our usual stop for the best fried shrimp at B&J’s in Darien, Georgia, but we really wanted to be back in NJ. At about 4:30 that first afternoon, we were approaching Fayetteville, North Carolina and found a Doubletree Hotel on the Hilton app just off I-95, and made that our night’s destination. As luck would have it, there was a Cracker Barrel restaurant just across the parking lot!

The last time we ate inside a restaurant, was at that Cracker Barrel in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Friday, March 13th, 2020! When we got home on the 14th, looking ahead, we’d wondered if we should go to our usual Tuesday night at Charlie’s Back Bar with our friend Sue, and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but the day before, on March 16th, New Jersey restaurants closed down, and we no longer had a decision to make. When outside dining opened in New Jersey in June, we did partake in meals at the “Lot at Angelo’s” and the Tent at Charlies, but once outside dining stopped, we just didn’t feel that safe eating indoors, and we went back to take-out only. For close to a year, we had not eaten inside a restaurant, that is not until last Thursday, March 11, 2021 when we joined our Mancuso Family friends at Angelo’s in Atlantic City! So what changed?

Well, on Friday, February 19th, I got my second Moderna vaccine shot at Shoprite in Rio Grande, and on Thursday, February 25th, Susie got her second Moderna shot at the Shoprite in Glassboro, New Jersey. According to the CDC, “Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the final required shot,” which made Thursday, March 11th our “Coming Out Day!” What better way to celebrate than to dress in “going out to dinner clothes” and to return to a place and people we love, and a place we used to be at every Thursday night! We’d been looking forward to it for a long time (really since March 13th of last year), and I’m happy to say we were not disappointed!

We were sad that our friend Michael didn’t greet us from behind the bar as we walked in, as the pandemic has changed schedules for many, but none the less, it was great to be back inside! It was good to see that there were so many people waiting to eat when we walked in, and it was good to see our long time friends Rhonda, Theresa, and Victor were working, along with our new summer friend Suzanne and our take-out friend Wendy. Every week will be a new experience for us, and we can’t wait till we see Patti, Angelo, Ed, Trinidad, and Michael as time goes on, and more and more dining opens up! It was great to be back inside, feeling safe after a year, but we must be realistic and realize getting back to what was our normal will take a bit of time….if it ever happens. I guess the mind set has got to be, be happy for what we’ve got, and not sad for what used to be!

So now that we are fully vaccinated, what else that we’ve not done in the past 12 months is on our horizon? Well, a visit from our daughter Krissi and son-in-law Michael, who we have not seen since August, as well as a visit from our great friends Pat and Steve, who we last saw at Susie’s Mom’s funeral in February, 2020. Then, something we’ve waited so long for, Easter with our son Billy and daughter-in-law Lori in North Carolina, and getting to see our three Grandkids, who we haven’t seen in the flesh since January 30th, 2020! We’ve missed all these people (especially the three youngest members of the D’Elia Family), and can’t wait to see them, to be with them, and to exchange hugs for the first time in a year! Then down the road, there will be the fun of getting back together with our Ocean City friends, and seeing our life get closer to what it was, and maybe even a visit to Florida. My new knee and Susie’s new hip are still on our radar too!

Yes, we have indeed survived the last 12 months, but we are sad that so many other Americans didn’t! With the advancing rollout of the vaccines, we hope that no one else will lose their life due to Covid, that folks who have been financially affected by the pandemic can get back on their feet, and that America will never forget this past year, but will be able to move beyond it!

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

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I’m sure we’ve all heard the 1963 song, made popular by Andy Williams, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  Indeed, during this holiday period, it’s hard to go through a day without hearing it on the radio, in a store while shopping, or around your house.  You know the song…..

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

With the kids jingle belling

And everyone telling you be of good cheer

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

It’s the hap-happiest season of all

With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings

When friends come to call,

It’s the hap-happiest season of all….”

 

But is it?

img_1062-1Yesterday, Susie and I spent some time at the Shoprite in Somers Point, and as we were walking out, I commented to her, “Wow…there are some really, crabby unhappy people in this place”.  Sourpuss faces, grumpy dispositions…a generally cranky population!  

As we went back into the parking lot and unloaded the wagon into our Honda, the general theme continued.  Folks were honking horns at each other, attempting to beat fellow shoppers to parking places, demanding that others move faster, and generally acting like they were the most important person on earth!  Wow…”the hap-happiest season of all”?

Then we ventured out of the parking lot and onto Route 9, and believe me, it didn’t improve there!  We saw no “kids jingle belling” and certainly never heard anyone telling us to be “of good cheer”.  What we did see was the usual crappy driving you see this time of the year.  People cutting others off, turning the wrong way down streets, driving while on their phones, and not signaling so you have an idea what their intentions are.  Generally living up to my theory that the state issues thousands of licenses that are only valid from Thanksgiving through New Years, and you best pay double attention to your fellow drivers on the road this time of year, if you want to find out what you are “Doing on New Year’s Eve!” 

How sad is it, that so many at this “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” act like it is anything but!  Are there crowds in the stores and traffic on the roads?  Yes, but it’s Christmas, what do you expect?!  I’m reminded of a woman I met standing in line a long time ago at the Fortunoff Department Store back on Long Island.  We were waiting to pick up some merchandise we’d just purchased, and frankly it was a rather long line, as we all were there for the same purpose.  After a few minutes the lady, who was in front of me, turned to me and said, “Why are the lines so long this time of the year?”  Huh?  I wanted to tell her that if she perhaps did her Christmas or Hanukkah shopping in say July, she might find less crowds, but I didn’t.  

I think too many people lose sight of what this holiday is all about.  It’s about family and friends, its about “parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow”.  It’s about, “hearts will be glowing when love ones are near, and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.”  Like the birth of a little baby in a stable in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.  Yes, we all have a lot to do, and sometimes the doing becomes stressful, and dealing with people becomes a chore, but please think of the lyrics of this song, and the real reason we celebrate.  Christmas wasn’t created by Macys or Walmart, Target, Costco,  Coca-Cola, or even the Hallmark Channel! 

It’s about that little baby, it’s about family, and friends that are like family, it’s about spending time with the ones you love, and spreading the joy of the season as much as you can, even if it’s just smiling at a stranger in the store, or holding a door for someone, or thinking of those around you.  Yes indeed, it is the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and my wish is that we all remember that everyday, and try and make it true.  I know Andy Williams will appreciate it!

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