Yesterday, Friday, March 20th, 2020, I delivered my car to the Audi dealership to get some work done on the brakes. The appointment had been scheduled before this whole thing started. While my car was being worked on, I decided to take a walk through downtown. I wanted to see how the rest of the city was preparing for a global pandemic. I find this fascinating, history is unfolding right before our eyes. And so, with a surgical mask to remind me not to touch my face and a curiosity for the macabre, I went to see how my fellow Victorians are dealing with the impending crisis.
The first thing that struck me … no, shocked me, was how empty the street were. The picture to the right is called Douglas Street, it’s the main North/South thoroughfare through Victoria. This picture was taken on a Friday at about 10:00 AM. The picture should be full of cars and people, the hustle and bustle of a spring business day. That was my first clue. Bear in mind that I live a long way away from the city. I also don’t go downtown often. In fact, I tend to avoid it at all costs, unless I’m looking for a summer festival, going to a hockey game/concert, or something along those lines. The case has to be pretty compelling to get me to go downtown. And, to be honest, for the duration of this first wave of the virus, I will be avoiding downtown, crowds and people in general. I’m an introvert by nature, now I’m leaning towards becoming an isolationist. I wasn’t really prepared for what I was going to find as I walked through downtown.
My actual reason for walking downtown was to go to the local Motor Vehicles branch. I wanted to look into the process and materials required to upgrade my driver’s license to a Class 4. So, I walked downtown towards the branch on Wharf Street. Most of the businesses were closed. Those that were open, consisted of mostly people cleaning and disinfecting the stores. No customers to be found. When I saw this I realized that through the 15 minutes that I had been inside the Audi dealership, I had witnessed three separate people cleaning and disinfecting the dealership. Wow. I walked through Bastion Square. Empty (at left). The Waterfront had one or two people there. Most on them seems to be walking their dogs. It’s of great concern that I mention that the vast majority of the people that I saw out yesterday seemed either homeless, or very economically challenged. How will they handle this crisis?
As I approached the front door to the building that houses Motor Vehicles, a security guard held up his hand in a “stop” motion and verbally reinforced that thought. I stopped in my tracks. He asked my business there. I told him that I wanted the manuals for a Class 4 license. He instructed me to wait outside and he would get me the manuals. Moments later he reappeared with the manual. Wearing latex gloves, he thumbed through the book to show me the chart that outlines what chapters applied to a Class 4 license. Our business was conducted on the sidewalk on Wharf Street. He was kind, polite and informative, having given me exactly what I went there for. But, it was also clearly implied that I would remain outside unless absolutely necessary. Through our conversation, I noticed that a masking tape border had been outlined on the sidewalk (a la Les Nessman) to delineate the area that I suppose to remain outside of. That area included the door to the building. Desperate times call for desperate measures I guess. In a show of appreciation for my willingness to cooperate with these measures in a kind and friendly manner, he engaged me in a bit of small-talk after we had conducted our business. It turns out that he is actually a driving test examiner. Since exams have been cancelled, he was watching the door. He told me the top three reasons why people fail the exam that I intend to take soon. Lack of shoulder checks, a tire touching a curb when turning a corner and failing to come to a complete stop at stop signs. Thank you my friend, stay safe.
So, having accomplished my mission, I decided to find my way home. I had initially planned on staying downtown until my car was ready, but I was getting fairly creeped out by the state of things. The state of affairs in Victoria was forcing me to consider all of the things that I was trying to keep to the fringes of my mind. I wanted a safe and quiet place to consider life, the universe and everything. The recent revelation of the impact of my long-ago splenectomy was hitting me at the same time as the ramifications of the State of Emergency. It hit me like a brick, I wanted to be home in my disinfected, controlled environment. So, I walked back to Douglas and found a bus stop for route 40 to Langford. Buses, in this State of Emergency, are free. Riders are to enter and exit the vehicle through the back door to keep the driver as safe as possible from infection. When the double-decker showed up to take me home, I went to the top level and sat at the very front. Of course, the bus was almost empty.