On Friday, as I finished up my second day of working from home, I realized something strange. Even though a severe virus was spreading throughout the city I live in, I felt a sense of calm about the weekend ahead. Not because of any diminished concerns about COVID-19—I’m closer to a hypochondriac than a finger-licker on the health anxiety spectrum—but because of the virus’s social consequences here in Seattle. Namely, that fewer people would be out and about on Friday and Saturday nights, doing exciting things and meeting exciting people, and thus making me feel less lame.
As a single 29-year-old, staying in on any given weekend night in this vibrant city usually feels a bit like guaranteeing a lonely future, not to mention, given how expensive Seattle rent is, an unnecessary act of financial sabotage; if you’re going to spend over a grand to live in a tiny box and share a laundry room with dozens of other people, you should probably take advantage of the accompanying cultural attractions you can’t find in the sticks.
But this weekend, I could shamelessly finish my book (Rachel Cusk’s Outline, excellent), clean the kitchen, and even binge an obscene amount of Love Is Blind, my first unabashedly trash TV experience in years. (By the way, if there were ever a TV show for the Quarantine Era, it’s this one. The show begins with potential couples getting to know each other while sitting in separate octagonal pods, completely unable to see or touch one another but totally able to pop the question—the most cynical preview of what’s to come for us. As an apocalyptic bonus, the show is co-hosted by Nick and Vanessa Lachey, the former one-half of one of the most superficial relationships in TV history. You’ll spend a good portion of your viewing time imagining how Nick and Jessica would have kept a conversation going under Love Is Blind conditions.)
Overall, my lack of FOMO remained a constant throughout the weekend. I was never bombarded with a slew of hip Instagram photos or group-text exchanges that typically prompt such regret. Yet, by Sunday, I wasn’t feeling totally comfortable with my self-imposed social isolation. (For the record, I’m not showing any symptoms.) While local companies and colleges got on board with social distancing, locals didn’t necessarily forgo their concerts or farmers markets. The Sounders even drew 33,000-plus to their match on Saturday night at the Link, though it was their smallest home crowd since 2009.
On the one hand, I thought, good for these social butterflies for supporting local businesses, who are taking a big hit during this crisis. I actually started to feel guilty about not stopping in at any of my neighborhood haunts. On the other, I was confounded: What’s the point of ditching our offices and classrooms if we’re going to shop and scream mere inches from one another? An expansion of Jay Inslee’s resources for affected businesses and a wave of crowdfunding efforts seem like safer ways to back our hot spots.
Unfortunately, supporting local businesses wasn’t the only rationale I saw for behaving normally. The other explanation popping up in my feeds was some form of “it’s only killing the elderly.” Let’s start with the fact that virus contraction is not a binary experience. You can have a very unpleasant, long battle with COVID-19 that doesn’t end with you dying. So, you’re not immune if you’re young.
But more importantly, the health of our most vulnerable should matter to you, even if you don’t belong to one of those groups. The growing toll of this virus—as of Sunday, 19 Washingtonians had died—means that even people without symptoms should reconsider their social choices.
Take it from a guy who spent the weekend in sweatpants: If you can, stay home, Seattle. Revel in the rest. You won’t feel like you’re missing much, and you might be saving a whole lot more.