I meet my friend Chris at the bar of a Center City restaurant and I sit down with one barstool between us.
“What are you doing?,” he asks.
“Social distance,” I say.
He starts to sit down on the safety bar stool.
“No,” I say, “keep the distance. You are coughing.”
“I’ve been coughing all week,” he says.
That does not comfort me.
“I went to the V.A. this morning and they said I don’t have a fever and my breathing is fine,” he says. As a veteran, he deserves respect, but I maintain social distance.
Traffic on Broad Street is not as heavy as it should be. I know Center City business is down, but customers are drifting into the restaurant we are in, which is in the theater district, which has shut down. (The Philadelphia Orchestra played in an empty Kimmel Center the night before.)
We talk about President Trump’s just-announced National Emergency, as I run my hand across the cool marble of the bartop, wondering when it was last wiped down. I also wonder if the $50 billion the feds will release will be enough.
Chris is furious about Trump’s self-praise and heavy-handed asides. I ignore Trump’s usual antics and denial of responsibility, but have confidence in the parade of CEOs who have pledged to work together to battle the coronavirus, although I don’t know precisely what they are promising to do. While I personally am not a fan of WalMart, I know it to be brutally efficient and its promised parking lot space for mobile testing units is important. WalMart is everywhere — from the biggest cities to the smallest crossroads. It has almost 5,000 outlets. It’s a nice gesture, but can’t WalMart do more?
CVS is involved, too, and I’m in there so often they could charge me rent. I want specifics about what the giant will do.
As the news conference unspooled, the stock market rebounded strongly, rising almost 2,000 points, unlike the stock sag that followed Trump’s failed Wednesday news conference.
During the day, House Leader Nancy Pelosi cut a deal with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnunchin on a multi-billion aid package. Just guessing, but that would not have happened if it were Trump “arting the deal” with Pelosi.
If it is true that 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and have no savings, if the disease takes a month to peak, we are looking at a financial catastrophe. If these Americans lose their jobs or are laid off and get no pay for weeks, they will not be able to buy groceries, pay their mortgage or rent, the electric and cable bill, plus tuition and gas for the car.
As I said previously this is war and the government will need more money to keep millions of Americans afloat. National Emergency, right?
Back at the bar, a friend of Chris’ arrives and joins us, seated to Chris’ left, while I maintain my “social distance” on the right.
The friend — no name, he’s in real estate — is complaining that the industry has dropped dead, but the reasons are interesting.
“No one will come to an open house” because of the coronavirus threat.
“Well, the sellers still get leads and they can have people make appointments and come in to see the place,” I say.
The real estate guy tells me the sellers don’t want strangers in their home.
Well, that will slow down sales, for sure. The real estate guy shrugs, sips his drink, and says he will have to wait it out.
You know what they say about silver linings? There is one here.
The other side of his business is property management, he tells me.
His phone has been exploding. Why?
Landlords don’t want to visit their properties to inspect repairs or collect rents. They are afraid, so they hire him.
Who would have seen that coming?
A minor point of light in a dark night.