As a young adult, living in a nearly post-pandemic world, I had fears that the eventual return of society would be anything but friendly.
But as I strolled down Rosie’s Dog Beach walking path with my 16-year-old terrier mix, I was greeted by more people than ever before.
People seemed happier and more appreciative of the simple fact that we were all able to be in this social setting around each other.
Though I feared it would be full of serotonin-starved, socially anxious introverts, here we all were—saying hello, getting sun, eating fruit, supporting street vendors and walking our dogs.
To little surprise, there were plenty of people going about their day without a mask.
Whether these beach-goers were residents, tourists finding a new start or Long Beach State students taking a stroll down to the water, a Saturday at the beach seemed like the new normal.
Rosie’s was fully packed with many sights. Everything from people exercising in the new workout area of the Granada bike path and restroom stop, to people drinking on the beach in large groups under a canopy, to those tossing a football or playing a game of cornhole.
Long Beach residents and tourists also filled the streets of Naples and Belmont Shore, running errands, getting coffee at Peet’s, running in and out of Mac’s Liquor Store on Second asking for cold Hennessy bottles and walking on the sidewalk in groups where certain conversations went like this:
“What is a michelada?”
“You don’t know what a michelada is?”
“A michelada is…”
I really hope they described it well because it is 2021, and we have survived the worst of a pandemic that made us all stay home where our primary contact to the world of knowledge was the Internet. How do you not know what a michelada is?
Older residents quietly walked their dogs around the neighborhood, most with masks, often just nodding, waving and occasionally just squinting their eyes behind their masks, hinting at a smile underneath.
Emotions seem mixed, with some residents taking no precautions whatsoever, to others who are essentially still walking around in full personal protective equipment.
According to the latest press release on the matter, Long Beach was allowed to move into the orange tier of reopening as of April 1.
Restaurants are now able to increase their indoor serving capacity from 25% to 50%, and bars can operate outdoors. Be prepared for longer wait lines for tables because of limited capacity.
When there are fewer new COVID-19 cases daily, Long Beach will move into the yellow tier. This is when the risk of infection moves from being moderate to minimal, and businesses and establishments are allowed to fully reopen.
Since the orange tier has allowed a lot of restaurants in Long Beach to reopen, I decided to go to the Yardhouse in Shoreline Village.
I felt uncomfortable to be seated indoors, but thought it was a better alternative to eating outdoors during an evening in which wind gusts would make any hot plate cold in seconds.
There are still multiple signs around the restaurant that remind customers to keep their masks on until their food and drinks arrive, but many people in the surrounding tables had their masks off as soon as they were seated.
With customers so lax about the rules, you can see looming fear in servers’ faces, even over their masks and face shields.
One thing is for sure: if you plan to go out to eat, do not be afraid to over-tip the servers. The time for over-tipping is now.
As Long Beach moves into the next tier of reopening and more people become vaccinated, there will be a greater and more apparent new normal. I no longer believe that we will return to a pre-pandemic normal because many lives were lost and patterns of human behavior have been altered.
A new normal is starting to take place, where residents go back to their jobs and routines, but with a new pace and beat.
This pandemic has given some a greater appreciation for human life. In the United States, we have the privilege to be vaccinated and experience this new normal as other countries continue to being ravaged by the virus, its new variants and the World Health Organization’s bureaucratic process failing in the worldwide vaccination rollout.