Alex lives in my neighborhood, but I only met her for the first time during my 2018 campaign. She lives alone and works from home. In our conversation, she tells me about an idea she has introduced on her street: a beautiful daily ritual of human connection and neighborliness. Alex explains it perfectly in her own words, read/watch below.
This is part of a series of interviews with Ann Arbor residents, talking about personal experiences adjusting to (and adapting during) the COVID-19 crisis. Interviewed April 3, 2020
Alright, I am talking to my friend, Alex. Alex, I’m… (laughs) Hi, Alex!
I’m curious to know: how has your lifestyle changed, how are you adjusting to what’s happening right now with COVID-19?
I live alone and I work at home so, in the before-times, I would work really hard to make sure that I had social outlets. So, I would go to the library and work a couple days a week or work at a coffee shop or meet a friend for coffee or go to concerts. Of course, that’s all gone now. So now I am working at home and living alone.
So how are you managing with the everyday things that everybody’s sort of coping with, like getting food and all those things, how have you changed your habits?
Those haven’t changed. So, I visit the grocery store about every twelve days.
And, you did that before… you shopped that infrequently?
Yeah, because I live by myself, so my cooking is pretty simple.
So, some people have talked about how this is really… it feels especially isolating. How are you coping with that? What are your strategies?
The first week was really hard. The weather was not warm like it is now, it was about 28 or 30 degrees every day and nobody was outside — not even the children who live on my street were playing outside. The quiet was very eery. Being at home and by myself, it was bothering me a lot, so I wrote some letters to my neighbors. I hand-wrote them and hand-delivered them by dropping them on their porches. In these letters I was very honest and I was very open and vulnerable. I told my neighbors: I’m home alone and I’m scared. I said, I am going to— every day at 5:30 — go to the end of my driveway and I’ll wave. I need you to see me and know that I am okay. Will you please come out and wave to me and let me know that you’re okay?
I dropped them at about twelve neighbors’ houses, just the ones that I can see from my house and the response has been wonderful. My neighbors come out every day at 5:30 and they come to the end of their driveways and we wave to one another. It just takes about five minutes, and we say: Are you okay? How are you doing today? Do you need anything? It has been wondering to have a new tradition in my neighborhood of the 5:30 wave.
I love that. That is so GREAT. That is really excellent.
Are there any things about adjusting to this… so, since you started out living alone and maybe… working at home —so not going to a workplace where you interact with people— are there any things that have surprised you about adjusting to this?
I think the whole thing was a surprise!
No, but what I mean is now that we are living it, what has… is there anything that has caught you by surprise that you miss—that you didn’t even think of— of the things that we sacrifice now?
Really, what I miss most is my friends.
So do you have any advice for people who are feeling particularly isolated and cooped up and are maybe not as accepting of the new circumstances and are trying to go about their everyday normally like, you know, they are continuing to go out in public places…
Oh, don’t do that!
Well, every day I get an email from somebody saying “I went to this park…” or “I went to this place…” and “this is shocking to me that people are still doing this.” So what do you think we should say to people who are still going about every day a little bit more normally?
I don’t know. I don’t understand why people are doing that. I heard it said, it’s like making believe you have a “peeing section” in your swimming pool.
Nobody has that!
So we talked— before we started filming— about how you go walking every day
What are your strategies to keep safe outdoors?
I stay six feet away from people and I try to be aware of those that are around me. I’ve also been taking more pictures— when I’m outside— of nice things. I take pictures of plants that I see or encouraging messages on sidewalks and I share those with my friends.
Do you have anything else you’d like to share about what’s going on with COVID-19?
I would say: drink your water, eat your vegetables, and be brave. And if you can’t be brave, be kind, and wave to your neighbors!
I love that, I just love that. I hope more streets do that! I thank you for talking to me, Alex
And thanks for stopping by, it’s good to see another face…
I’ll see you at 5:30!