Coronavirus: There’s an upside to lockdowns

It’s all in the branding.

Cartoon on Israel's green passport program (photo credit: Courtesy)
Cartoon on Israel's green passport program
(photo credit: Courtesy)
 This week Israel rolled out its Green Pass.
Great name, that: Green Pass. It’s a name that conjures up infinite possibilities: the green hills of Africa, the evergreen forests of Washington state, my neighbor’s greener grass. When I first heard the term “Green Pass” my mind leapt back to the classic Creedence Clearwater Revival song, “Green River.”
I can hear the bullfrog callin’ me.
Wonder if my rope’s still hangin’ to the tree.
Love to kick my feet ‘way down the shallow water.
Shoefly, dragonfly, get back t’your mother.
Pick up a flat rock, skip it across Green River.
And that’s what I thought the Green Pass would give me, entrance to green hills, to green forests, to Green River. Freedom.
I was wrong. What does it give me? I can go to the mall.
Oh boy, the mall.
DON’T GET me wrong, I am thankful that as a result of the coronavirus vaccines, everyday activities that were out of reach for so long are now within grasp for those who have had their two vaccine shots.
But the mall? That’s such a prize? Maneuvering the car through ill-placed pillars in a crowded parking lot to stand in line with impatient people to get into a store to buy something overpriced that I probably don’t need? For that I waited a year?
And once inside the mall, you are going to have to interact again with people, both those you know and those you don’t. And, quite frankly, that is going to be a readjustment.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had to deal with social situations: idle chitchat, small talk, social niceties, exchanging pleasantries. I’m all out of practice.
More than that, I actually enjoy staying in. That’s right. I’m a homebody, comfortable in my environment, more than thrilled that I am able to control that environment, happy as a lark at home. It’s not for nothing one of my kids once called me Herbie the Hermit.
True, I would have been happier during the coronavirus if the kids and grandkids could have come over more often; I’m pained about not having seen my father in the US for over a year; and I would have liked to go out for breakfast from time to time with The Wife. But truth be told, I was pretty okay with being forced to stay in.
The coronavirus lockdowns were perfect for folks like me, since by doing what I like – staying at home – I was actually performing a civic duty. It was like being paid for doing something you actually like doing anyhow.
“Honey,” I admitted to The Wife the other day. “It’s been a long time since we’ve gone out and socialized. I know it’s important to socialize. But remind me again, why is that?”
“It’s because no man is an island,” she said. “It’s because a Stanford study said that friendships lengthen your life. It’s because, as Barbra Streisand sang, ‘People, people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.’”
If that is indeed the case, then we all got really lucky with the Green Pass, since it enables us to see people and friends at the malls, museums, libraries or gyms – all venues now accessible.
Sounds great. But I haven’t been to a museum in at least two years, to a library in about five, and have never been a member of a gym. For exercise I walk alone or peddle a stationary bike... at home.
SYNAGOGUES ARE also now open, and not only for Green Pass holders. Here, too, I’m rather ambivalent. I have gotten very used to the minyan on the street below my bedroom window every morning, afternoon and evening, and have actually grown quite fond of it.
It’s convenient, it’s fast, it’s functional, it’s about as friction-free davening as I have ever experienced. I’ve never been less annoyed during prayers than I have over the last year, even when it entails standing in the hot sun or having the prayer leader wait a second before continuing because of the noise from a passing bus.
Granted, I often feel as though I live inside a synagogue – as the minyan is literally right underneath my bedroom window. That means that on those days when, occasionally, I’d like to sleep beyond the 7:15 a.m. start for Shacharit, I get woken up by the prayer leader reciting the opening kaddish.
It’s kind of tough staying in bed guilt-free when you hear the davening outside. It’s one thing to roll over and hit the snooze button on the alarm clock, it’s quite another to stay in bed when you hear “Shema Yisrael” being chanted outside your bedroom window. Talk about feeling guilty for sleeping in.
Nevertheless, the street-side davening has been an eye-opening experience on the possibility of prayer without all the synagogue accoutrements – all the unique shtick, idiosyncrasies and shenanigans that inevitably come when dozens of people gather in one room on a regular basis.
Were the outside minyanim to continue for much longer, the same shtick would probably penetrate there as well – utter annoyance, for instance, when somebody would be sitting at that exact spot on the sidewalk where I like to put my folding chair. But we haven’t reached that point yet.
And now, as the synagogues begin to reopen, we probably never will, which means that in my mind the sidewalk minyan will be forever frozen in a pristine state. I imagine that anytime something will bother me when I do return to the shul down the street, I’ll come home and complain to The Wife, “You know, that never happened when we were davening outside.”
The mind is a wonderful thing, in that it has a tendency to remember the good, not the bad. Even as we are just starting to return to normal life, I’m already nostalgically thinking about those simpler times during the pandemic when things were slower, more relaxed, and how one found pleasure in the small things – like when a letter came in the mail, a new Netflix series dropped, or how much dirt the automatic vacuum cleaner collected in its run around the house.
But, as The Wife said, “avoidance is not living.” True. And it’s now time to just get back out there. 