Those We Meet from a Proper Social Distance

Low tide. I’m lucky.

There’s no one up on the rocks when I arrive, which knows makes me feel okay that I am. There are steps carved into the descent, so I gladly take them. They lead to all of the most perfect perches on the headland.

It’s a good social distance spot. The closest person, some 50 feet away, looks like he’s reading. I’d like to come back here and draw.

I’m writing, because watching the water crash on the rocks gives a lot to contemplate.

As an American East-coaster, I never thought I’d have the chance to be so intimately introduced to the Pacific. If we’re being honest, it’s intimidating. It’s vast, gargantuan.

“Gargantuan, you know, I’ve always liked that word… so rarely have an opportunity to use it in a sentence”

Elle Driver, Kill Bill Vol. II

I found it funny pondering how many “arm-lengths” away I really am from the next person when I look out across. I actually can’t even imagine how many that could be to America. Billions? Trillions? MORE?

For context rooted in fact, according to National Geographic’s article, “The Pacific Ocean, Explained“:

“The “Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest ocean on Earth. It spans 60 million square miles from California to China, and in certain regions extends tens of thousands of feet below the surface of the water.”

wooooooooooooooow

So there are immense leagues between me and America, yes, but there are little pockets of life scattered across the ocean. New Zealand for a start, is much less “scattered” than it is a happy nearby little country, perfectly content on their crescent moon-shaped plot of land away from everyone else.

Out further there’s are many islands and atolls that you’ll discover when you’re exceptionally bored and spend time playing with the interactive flight map on a plane. I guess I often sit and ponder the vastness of the ocean.

Truth is, the closest people still are closer than Tokelau, Polynesia, and Hawaii.

The Ruby Princess has been anchored on the horizon, seemingly tethered to the edge of the earth, for days now. I can even see it from my apartment. This cruise ship is just one of the many liners that have been a palace of infection. The Ruby Princess herself is credited with gestating “100s of cases and five deaths” in Australia from COVID-19. Those still onboard can’t bring themselves, lest it, ashore. So they just sit there and wait until, well, the coast is clear I guess.

Ah, in this moment I feel mighty lucky to be on land. In the best of times cruise ships–vile behemoths–are insufferable for me. In this time it would have made for one gripping instalment of Horror Nights.

From where I ventured today, on the edge of the earth, I can still see them, bobbing up and down on the horizon, a speck of what they are in proper perspective. Still, my social distancing is, as they say in Australia, “tops.” It’s still leagues away across this expanse of watery plains.

Later that day, I close this far-reaching gap of human connection… with an iPhone.


“Do you have an iPhone?” I asked one of two girls that was sitting at the point of the headland, to which I received silence.

Unsurprising, I think after it’s already come out, and I’m staring blankly from behind reflective sunglasses. Not the best thing to lead with, they probably think you wanna rob them… explain better.

I had been taking pictures along the headland for a while. For a while, I was the only one in the vicinity, until the pair of them came into my frame. It was a nice picture, a dream photo-op, so I thought: I can AirDrop this. Why not put our phones to use doing what they do best and communicating at a distance? Seems, as a society, we’ve been prepared for this for a long time.

But when I searched their phone, no “people nearby” showed up. I actually had to use my person voice and try to communicate with other people at a time when we’re not supposed to be going outdoors or communicating with other people. Oh boy, here we go.


“I have some nice pictures of you sitting there, I can Airdrop them to you.”

Believe it or not, with a good zoom, the Ruby Princess is on the horizon of this photo. Also, I can almost assure you this woman doing tai-chi controls the weather. Her, I did not Airdrop this photo to.

Better.

The mood immediately brightened. The pair told me they that they came out for some fresh air, one girl giving the other a French lesson.

She turned her Airdrop on and let me know I should be looking for “Tara’s iPhone” which paved the way for more awkward confusion.

How long have I been on this rock??

The non-French one told me it was her name, which cleared up some confusion for me.

I explained: “Oh! I’m Tara, too.” Which helped us launch into a “do you say Tahr-uh or TARE-uh;” A conversation I have been having my whole life and no matter where I go, can’t escape.

After the success of the Airdrop was confirmed, I went on my way after signing off with “Stay safe,” which I can only assume is the new way to bid someone goodbye.

I got off the rocks and onto the boardwalk to continue on with my little dose of exercise. I followed this seaside track along until I hit a roadblock. It was tiny but mighty sign that read: VIRUS HOT SPOT AHEAD.

Thanks, I thought, don’t have to tell me twice.

I turned back around and headed for home. On my way back past my prior perch, the two girls I sent pictures to were also leaving. A waved a little wave. An iPhone exchange is as good as an acquaintance, in addition to name twins.

In the spirit of taking the long way around, I thought for sure I could find something of necessity if I stop by the grocery store. I went in and low and behold, today’s special was microwave popcorn. A solid special. I’d been on the lookout for just that.

I circled the store once or twice, and then I saw them again, the girls.

Now it’s getting weird

Although, I must reason, the whole world is weird right now. And since we can’t go to restaurants and bars we just go to the supermarket for some sense of sociability and productivity.

But we had our fair share of sociability already, me and these newfound familiar faces. Enough was enough.

I grabbed a bunch of bananas and set off for the social distanced self checkout lines, doomed not to speak to another person for God-knows how much longer.

Turns out… not that long. During my stroll home, I heard quick successions of footsteps behind me, beating against the sidewalk. Well, more flapping. As they got closer it was clear, this teeny tiny patter was a young child, running down the street with all of his might.

Eventually, I saw him bolt past me and ahead of me. My auntie senses tingled, so I turned to see if there was someone responsible for him. Sure enough, there was.

She was quite a way behind me at this point, but I watched him stop and wait. Good job.

I had to hand it to him. I extended the compliment his way as I walked past.

“Really fast,” I said, without so much as stopping to let him know the comment was for him. But he knew it was. I’ve been around enough kids to know that’s all what they want to know in these situations.

In his most exhausted panting little voice, he said back, “thanks.”

We never really stop craving affirmation, do we?

I took one last scenic route today, the long way around the block. It’s not much longer, but it helped squeeze in a few extra steps. As I approached the building I felt a few raindrops hitting my face.

Just in time.

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