On Wednesday I cycled from Brooklyn into Manhattan. In normal circumstances that might seem a banal thing to note but, in the strange new world we are inhabiting, it felt like a momentous (and rather freeing) occasion after days holed up in my apartment working from the kitchen table. I needed to grab audio equipment from the office so that I could turn my house into a temporary radio studio for a live check-in for our global radio station, Monocle 24. The city felt as though everyone had left for a long weekend; a particularly sleepy Sunday. Broadway, the Big Apple’s main shopping thoroughfare whose pavements are normally packed, was practically empty.
One of the realities of the coronavirus outbreak is that a large segment of New York has been confronted with new working conditions; many are trying to adjust to a different routine, often with a partner at home having to do the same. But it’s also changed email interactions, including both journalists’ pitches and the way in which PR companies are tailoring their information. In recent days, for example, I have learnt that the Santarena Hotel in Las Catalinas, Costa Rica, has introduced a “germ butler” to immediately wipe down suitcases and passports, as well as guiding guests to the bathroom to wash their hands.
Beyond that, perhaps the most heartening messages I have received have been the simple ones, asking me: how are you doing? What sort of emails would be useful to you during this strange period? Do you want to hear from us – or should we hold off for now? It sounds like a small thing but it’s a slice of virtual humanity in tough times. If we’re all kinder and more considerate when this is all over, it won’t have all been in vain.