Skip to comments.What I learned from a Saturday night out in reopened America (Naples, Florida)
Posted on 05/16/2020 12:42:31 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin
On Saturday, I took a vacation back to the real world. You remember that place, where we walked down crowded streets on a Saturday night, ate at crowded restaurants, and cruised in bumper-to-bumper traffic down the main drag? A place where we only wore masks if it was Halloween or Mardi Gras, and the only fear we had was the fear of missing out.
It wasnt some far-off fantasy I had while laying on my couch during day 62 of quarantine, nor did I jump in a souped-up Delorean and ride a hoverboard into 2015. It was just Saturday night in Naples, Florida, one of the many cities in the Sunshine State that opened its businesses and beaches last week in an attempt to get back to the way things were.
And if Naples was any indication, many of the things weve read about the future of restaurants, socializing, travel, and everything else are over-estimating the demand for change. Because what many of those commentators vastly discount is the collective human desire to return to the life we know, risks or not. It would seem, so far, that the majority of people arent going to base decisions on potential exposure, and that businesses wont need to adapt all that much to make customers happy, even if there are government mandates. And whether you think this is great news or a terrifying revelation, most Americans main priority seems to be getting right back to the world we knew.
Itll take roughly 10 minutes to feel like none of this ever happened.
At first, walking down South Fifth Avenue effectively Naples Main Street was a little surreal. People walked four or five across, restaurants had customers sitting outside, retail shops were open, and police were directing the street-clogging traffic. It all seemed strangely foreign but still comfortingly familiar, kind of like going back to your parents house after your first semester of college.
But in about 10 minutes, none of it seemed the least bit odd. As soon as the novelty of seeing hundreds of other people wore off it felt like Saturday night. Fear dissipates pretty quickly when youre back in the real world, and when everyone around you seems fearless too, that collective feeling of safety puts us all at ease. And as I sat eating a plate of overpriced pad thai, it seemed the last two months had been some sort of weird dream, and life was carrying on like nothing ever happened.
People are not scared to be in large crowds.
One friend asked me if I felt safe when she saw me posting pictures of the busy streets on Instagram. And for some segment of the population, I suppose there will be lingering worry about being in crowds. But if Naples was any indication, that segment is a vocal minority. Which means, barring regulation, things like bar partitions and restaurant bubbles will act as stronger deterrents to business than keeping everything free and clear.
We could also extrapolate that to other things hotels, airplanes, sports stadiums. People seem to be more concerned with the quality of the experience than with being too close to crowds. And if businesses want to be profitable, theyll likely weigh the customers theyll lose by diminishing the experience versus those theyll lose to potential exposure. Even with regulations, restaurants are going to seat as many people as they can.
Florida, technically, allowed restaurants to open at 25 percent capacity. And though Florida has never been the best state at counting, not one restaurant limited itself to a quarter the number of people it could hold. Nearly every restaurant along Fifth Avenue was full, and the only thing stopping people from going inside were the prices on the menus.
You can get upset with restaurants for disregarding the regulation, but think about it: Imagine you had literally no income over the past two months and were all of the sudden allowed to make as much as you could until someone told you to stop. Its called desperation, and its where a lot of people are right now. Though I didnt talk to any restaurateurs on the record, the collective attitude seemed to be do it until youre told not to. And nobody was telling them not to.
Police are not going to enforce social distancing.
Police were out in force Saturday night in Naples, but they were busy enforcing the laws they usually enforce directing traffic, telling cars to turn their music down, yelling at jaywalkers. Remember, this is Naples, not New York City.
What they were not doing was forcing people six feet apart or telling people to wear masks. They were not walking into restaurants and handing out fines for seating too many people. Naples is relatively small, too. So you might imagine the priority social distancing will have in large cities where police are already stretched thin. Masks are not going to be part of our daily lives for long.
I could count on one hand the number of people I saw wearing masks on Saturday night, aside from restaurant staff. They didnt look like oddballs, per se, but in our collective desire to get back to normal, the hassle of wearing a face covering on a humid Florida night just wasnt happening for most people. Like putting our laptops away when the flight attendant comes by, wearing masks will be a rule we only follow when someone in authority tells us we have to, and will immediately stop following as soon as theyre not looking.
For their part, restaurant servers wore masks. Until they started to hinder their job. So after my waiter had to repeat a special to me twice because I couldnt understand him, he pulled his mask down and explained so I could hear. Gloves were also commonplace among restaurant staff, but as soon as people figure out theres not much difference between a server who wears the same gloves all night and one who washes their bare hands, my guess is those will go by the wayside soon too.
Like it or not, Floridas not the only place speeding back to normal.
Some may roll their eyes and say, Yeah, but thats FLORIDA! Arent you the same people who walk alligators down the street and misspell your face tattoos? Yes, we do have our share of less-than-Rhodes-scholars down here. But look no further than the parks of New York City or the beaches of Los Angeles to see that were far from the only people who are ready to go out, en masse, right now. Surveys show people cant wait to travel again. Cruise bookings are way up. Well be back a lot sooner than people think.
This isnt to say there wont be lasting effects from COVID-19. The tattered economy and massive government debt are still there. Many have lost loved ones, or jobs, or businesses, and those lives will still be considerably different once this two-month cloud has lifted. And for the responsible folk who choose to wear masks and avoid crowds moving forward, their lives wont look the same either. Its worth noting that Naples closed its beaches the next day after all of South Florida showed up. But in terms of how we dine out, drink, socialize, and walk down the street, not much will look that different.
You may see this as a horrifying commentary on Americas blatant disregard for COVID-19. Or you may find it an encouraging sign that our world is not as permanently altered as we may have thought. Either way, much like how you might have felt about the world shutting down, it ultimately doesnt matter. This is whats happening on the streets of Naples, and soon every city in America. And whether were better or worse for it is anyones guess.
The clampdown was premised on not overwhelming the hospitals. Now they are going broke for lack of patients.
So, while I remain a skeptic of of the “clampdown”, fine, I’ll let the proponents “be right”, as long as I get my way.
Never forget with these people have done to us.
Never. Make them step down make them apologize make them be gone.
Average age Naples Florida about 57 y/o, for what it’s worth
One can come up with anecdotal stories about the “reopening” to support whatever point of view you want. I pray this OP’s point of view is correct. Yet what I have seen in Upstate South Carolina is an extremely cautious approach both on the parts of business and consumers.
I think that most people want to get back to normal. The problem is that the Democrat-Media-Complex has a lot of folks scared sh*tless.
I work for a national security Contractor--whose primary customer agency went nuts over COVID. But because my group works at a company building, we have only gone through some of the nonsense going on at Customer sites. My immediate colleagues seem wearied by all of this nonsense. Many of our colleagues and Customers went to half-time; we have been on full time. We are also engineers--and not gulled as easily as average citizens.
There’s a word for that. SCOFFLAW!!
The wife and I have been to Naples, FL on several vacations. Stayed at the last remaining gulf front hotel that has not been converted into a luxury condo. It’s a small town and we enjoyed ourselves but, we prefer the Anna Marie Island / Longboat Key area.
FWIW, the politics of the peoples in the Naples area is pretty conservative on the whole.
Tell that to Gretch, the Wretch.
You really mean FREE MAN OR WOMAN.
if ya don’t like it stay home.
But it’s not Saturday night yet.
With the elderly isolated and excluded from the 'numbers', youngsters are then affected less than the normal annual flu and would go on to acquire herd immunity, eh?
Won't old people be 'picked-off' as they do eventually venture out? The hospitals won't be overwhelmed and the hospitalized would/could get better care the later they wait.
I'm 76.5 YO and I know that about 85% of the people this age who get CV do not survive. I'll stay out of crowds...mostly stay home.
“We are also engineers—and not gulled as easily as average citizens.”
Well said. During my 25 years in the news business, I always appreciated the chance to talk with engineers. Not only did they have interesting things to say, but they were one professional group I felt never tried to BS me.
I could say much the same for agriculture school professors.
Then again, my newspaper career wasn’t exactly conventional. Token conservative pretty much everywhere I worked.
“But its not Saturday night yet.”
It’s Florida. The dinner hour for the old folks starts at 3:30. So it’s practically midnight by now :)
The politicians did all the damage here. A virus does what it does. It is a force of nature. The destruction of the economy was all the politicians and was absolutely avoidable. Absolutely.
Naples is one of the more conservative areas of Florida. Free people enjoy being free.
Naples is beautiful. It was on our list of retirement destinations.
I have loved your posts forever, but I question your figure of 85% death rate for 76.5 year olds who contact the virus. I am 75.4 and I think I could survive it very well.
We desire to get back to where we were because familiarity gives us security. Onward and upward to getting back!
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