The week after my return, I ventured to a couple of neighboring stores for fruit and chapatis, and took short walks. Gyms and other large gathering spaces had been shut down fairly early, and since I’m a reluctant but devoted gym-goer, I was both relieved and resigned to gaining the quarantine-15.
A friend suggested getting basic cough/cold meds, so I skedaddled to my closest pharmacy again and grabbed the generics, plus some zinc, since it allegedly reduces the severity of colds. The cashier and I cracked jokes (from a safe distance) about why people kept buying toilet paper.
A hunt for an oxi-meter took me a bit further away to 37th avenue, another purchase meant to provide some semblance of control in uncontrollable times. Stores and restaurants along this stretch, the commercial spine of Jackson Heights and Corona (the neighborhood!) were still open then, and had the manic energy of the holiday season. A friend and I dropped into our local sushi place for lunch, but we were the only patrons.
A few days later, on March 16, restaurants were ordered to stop dine-in service and limited to pick-up or delivery. Liquor laws were altered to allow people to take alcohol off restaurant premises. The following day, I got an email from the take-out location of Pio Pio, a Peruvian brasa spot, asking for customers to order food. Apart from loving their chicken and green sauce, I was worried about these businesses surviving and promptly asked to pick some up. At this point, the ethical question of whether pick-up or delivery is better was still undecided and I opted to get the food myself.
The take-out location was deserted except for determinedly cheerful employees and me; its massive sit-down cousin across Northern Boulevard was shuttered. (About three days later, my attempt to order take-out from there for a friend failed; their online and phone line seemed shut.) Several places posted make-shift flyers on their doors or used sandwich boards to let customers know if they were doing pick-up or delivery.
We all paused for breath.