I'm not exactly sure what to do with all this newfound time that modern conveniences have given us that I wrote about in "Easy Is Not Simple." In normal times (remember those?) we spent whatever time wasn't consumed by either our jobs/volunteer job or the activities of daily living, in either learning, exploring, or socializing. The pandemic lockdowns that have canceled most of our favourite things to do. Work and volunteering are out. I can't volunteer at the Castillo - it's closed; or guide tours on El Galeon - tall ship festivals with their crowds and lines are cancelled. Sure, we can, and do, spend our time in lockdown doing self-improvement activities, so we are still learning and exploring a little. No museums, but there's lots of time for reading, and hiking or walks along the beach. At the beginning of the lockdowns I pledged myself to spend an hour on each of 4 categories per day: something educational, something physical, something practical, and something creative.
That leaves us terribly lacking in the social dimension, both what I call "intentional socializing" - planned outings or hangouts with friends, and "spontaneous socializing" - those things that grow organically from low stakes conversations with random people who cross your path. With everyone social-distancing now, I'm not going to pose for photos in garb or get into a long conversation with a stranger; walk crowded St George Street; or attend a happy hour full of other cruisers in a crowded, cozy pub or live music venue or festival.
It may be too great an endeavor, trying to unpack what is isolation that is due to the virus and what is integral to suburbia (or a by product of it), since both of those hit for us at the same time.
Even without virus considerations, though, I think the nature of suburbia itself leads to a certain basic isolation. In the city, or the cruising community, you had frequent random meetings with your neighbours, waiting for the bus, in the laundromat, at the dinghy dock. Houses are just too comfortable and have too many conveniences! Why go to a live music concert, when there's an impressive sound system here in the house, and I can listen to whatever I want, whenever I want it? Why go to a restaurant, when there's a spacious kitchen full of great appliances? We have our own car just steps from the door, and our own washer and dryer in the just off the kitchen. In suburbia all those creature comforts that make your life at home so easy, also make you never have to leave your private space. That's handy in virus times, but in the larger picture, if you never go out and interact by chance with your neighbours, what happens to community?
My neighbours are pleasant, I smile at them and say hi when I see them walking on the beach at sunrise or walking their dogs at sunset, but then we turn away and go back into our private worlds. It's a separate issue that there's less certainty that your neighbors would share any interests in common with you, when all you share is a zip code. Of course, that's not to say that people in suburbia don't make friends! They grow from common interests, from sports, hobbies, classes, churches, kids' friends. It's just that those interest-based friends could be across town, not necessarily next door. I've never made friends so easily as while living on a boat - by its nature, everyone you meet you have at least one common interest, life on the water, and that's the start for a conversation turning strangers into friends.