“Yes, quiet would be nice. I’d really, really like that.”
Fast-forward again, to March 2020. The air had a chill, but we sat on the balcony anyway. It was much quieter than it had been last fall, and last summer, when on any given afternoon there would be two lanes of traffic in each direction, pushing the speed limit, rushing to get home. Today there were hardly any cars on the street. No loud trucks or screaming motorcycles. No buses, few cars. Not even bicycles or pedestrians. You might say my wish had come true. It was quiet indeed. These days the traffic on my street, a major thoroughfare, is a fraction of what it used to be. It’s quiet. Very quiet. Too quiet. A Sunday kind of quiet every day.
With the economy in dire straits and businesses closed or shut down people are not travelling to work away from home and back daily. We’re in the midst of a serious and deadly pandemic. People are getting ill and dying every day, every hour, all day, all night. We fight the battle all the time. It’s not yet clear whether we’re winning or losing. I sincerely hope it’s not the latter. What to attack first or next is not at all clear either, much less how to do so. And it’s not only our street that’s quieter. Reports from all around the globe say that entire cities, and possibly countries are quiet. Did they wish for quiet, too?
Now, to be clear, I like quiet. Why, every time we go to our favourite cottage the first thing I do is shut off the engine, step out of the car, and listen. “Shhh. Hear the quiet? It’s so peaceful.”
By comparison the quiet below is not at all tranquil or comforting. On the contrary, it’s disturbing and disquieting. I think of all the people who are out there, somewhere, working long shifts in highly contagious environments “on the front lines” as is said, to look after us and to help us get better. I think, too, of the many who are working so hard to keep the grocery and essential medical supplies and services flowing, of those who keep us informed, and of those who are no longer out there, listed on the obit page.
I had wished for quiet. But not like this.
The news junkie in me watches news shows even more these days. In particular, broadcasts from all parts of the globe. They each have their own bêtes noires to deal with; their own problems to solve. They all tell us again and again to do much the same three things until this is safely over: stay home, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and if you really must go out, practice two meter social distancing. And don’t drive unless you truly need to.
Now, I know this summer will be different. The cottage may not be available. We might not get to the quiet of the lake. And certainly as we “open up” things will get noisier. But you know what? I’m guessing I won’t complain so much about the traffic noise. After all, it’s evidence of life and survival.
I need to be more careful what I wish for. So here’s my latest wish; I wish everyone would listen to and follow the rules. Make my wish come true.