I’ve developed a new habit of late. I like to go out to breakfast after Dialysis treatments.
Before Covid, I occasionally frequented a small but bustling diner named Bea’s Place. I really got sucked in by the great menu selections of comfort foods (breakfast and lunch only), the friendly staff and the normalcy and routine aspect of it.
After treatments I am almost always ravenous. I don’t eat much the night before a treatment because I obsess about my weigh-in. I don’t eat or drink anything pre-treatment for the same reason and because bathroom breaks are very inconvenient at the clinic. You have to have the needles tied off, pause the machine and it is a lot of work for the technicians. So by the time I’m done I’m hungry. Bea’s is not only down the street and as I said, the food is delicious.
Covid did not spare Bea’s. Shortly after the lockdowns, Bea’s shuttered their doors. I checked their door periodically for announcements of reopening but saw none. For a year this continued and I more than once openly lamented the loss of the place. As Americans, we have all seen the trillions of dollars of destruction economically as so many businesses, even ones considered “bulletproof” such as restaurants and bars closed their doors for good. I naturally assumed the worst.
Then one day I saw the cars parked in front. Sure enough, after a year they had reopened. Wishing to feel normal and wanting to put the whole Covid mess behind me in a meaningful way I began to frequent Bea’s twice a week.
I sit at the counter. It is where most singles are directed. I never liked going to a restaurant alone but breakfast is different. I’m less insecure about being alone, my need for caffeine and sustenance trumps appearances. Usually I find myself with a buffer of an empty seat on one side of me. Today, I was not so lucky. The place was jumping.
I like to be alone with my thoughts when I have breakfast but occasionally I get into a conversation. Today was one of those days. An elderly woman whose wrinkles wove a tapestry of unhappiness felt compelled to tell me about her life of late. I listened patiently as she told of out of work children, fear of catching the virus, perhaps most vividly she talked of the loneliness.
It occurred to me as I was finishing up that we have yet to tap the surface on the real impact on people by Covid. I have long suspected that forced isolation on essentially social creatures (humans) has caused damage that has yet to fully manifest itself in our society. There are some genuinely lonely people out there. Yes, I was eating alone also. But I was going home to someone, in addition to a crazy friendly dog, with a huge network of friends to reach out to by phone if necessary. I don’t think my new friend Brenda had any of that.
When the waitress took my plate I asked her for Brenda’s check. She obliged with a smile. I paid them both. By the time Brenda realized what had happened I was standing and putting on my coat.
“Why did you do that?”, she asked me. “I mean, thank you.”
“Why not?”, I replied. “Have a great day”, I said as I left.
I’ve said it before. Nobody can help everyone. But we can all help somebody. I’m not going to presume that my small gesture today will help her in any real way. We have yet to see the full effects of Covid on our previous way of life, but I fear that the pricetag on the isolation and fear is one that we are unprepared to pay.