Unfortunately, this is one of those cases where if an article’s title is a seemingly rhetorical question, the article itself could just as easily be summed up as “No.”
On one hand, I had predicted a while back that, with the demand for real estate going down, restaurant owners-to-be would be one step closer to making their dreams come true. And, at first glance, it seems like, at least in my hometown, that may just be the case. A fish fry up the street from my parents’ house that closed years ago is now a deli. Further up that same street sits a former hole-in-the-wall breakfast joint that closed earlier this year (pre-pandemic, for financial reasons) that is now a barbeque place. A food hall is slated to open in January, apparently. (One of my coworkers was telling me that his family is working on opening a Burmese restaurant, and it wasn’t until I started looking into the food hall that I realized that that’s where it’s going to be… also you know I’m going to be doing a huge write-up on it once it opens).
But there’s something so distinctly… American… about how we’re measuring the state of the pandemic through the number of businesses opening each day. Actually, come to think of it, it sort of makes sense. I was recently watching a video essay analyzing the way horror movies/video games have evolved over time to reflect what society fears most. And, if shows like The Walking Dead are anything to go by, America’s biggest concern- perhaps, if this isn’t too far of a reach, since 9/11- has surpassed the survival of the initial disaster, but rather is how to cling to hope and rebuild society in the aftermath. However, much like the zombies in The Walking Dead, COVID hasn’t exactly gone anywhere, but nonetheless people are eager to skip to the “rebuilding” phase, perhaps because that’s what such media has made them come to expect.
But, even if businesses are starting to come back, what about the workers that keep them running?
Despite spiking COVID cases, more and more restaurants are pushing to reopen their dining rooms for indoor seating. Sure, with colder weather starting to set in in most of the country, restaurants surviving on outdoor seating would just be unfeasible, even with the arrays of space heaters that some plan to set up. But honestly? Even the proper airflow of patio seating can’t fix the root of the problem: the customers just don’t give a shit.
I’ve been working at a grocery store throughout the whole pandemic, and you would not believe how indignantly some of these customers have been behaving when asked to follow basic safety procedures (unless you have also worked some form of customer service, then you won’t be surprised at all). The store manager had explicitly told us not to address anti-maskers directly, as “people have be killed for that,” which seems a little outlandish, but considering how some restaurants are teaching their servers “de-escalation techniques” for confronting such customers, it’s possible customers have reached new levels of savage pettiness.
I’m at my fucking limit. We can sit here and write all the thinkpieces we want about ‘how to save the restaurant industry,’ but they won’t mean anything if the pandemic continues to rage out of control, all because the Karens are tired of sitting around at home all day.
Who knows, maybe Trump and all his friends giving each other COVID at a party, The Masque of the Red Death style, is what we need for people to take this seriously.