I’ve been thinking a lot about safety lately. The pandemic, political and economic turmoil, return to work plans – all of these have safety components that give me anxiety and make 2020 feel like even more of a challenge. What exactly is the condition of being safe? I like these definitions: freedom from danger, risk, injury or loss; unhurt, harmless, cautious. Of course, safe can also mean unlikely to produce controversy or contradiction – also sometimes useful, but not what I’m writing about today.
The spread of COVID and the tools and policies available to manage the threat have become overtly political, which is unfortunate. I’m lucky that I really don’t have to fight any physical battles with people who won’t wear masks or follow guidelines and have the economic stability to isolate at home as much as I can during the pandemic. I’ve already decided I don’t *need* to visit casinos, go to movie theaters or drink in bars right now and I tend to favor take-out over eating inside at restaurants that are offering that option (and winter is coming, patio people). Correctly wearing a face mask to Target or the grocery store is literally the easiest thing you can do to keep the economy running, limit the spread of the virus and help keep people safe.
Outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities, which has resulted in a surge of bike sales and golf rounds. These are both things I love to do in a “regular” year, so this has been a great way to pass the time (and keep my move streak alive). It’s funny that some of the outdoor things I like to do aren’t always considered safe: danger is part of the appeal with downhill skiing and single-track mountain biking, for example. But even with those activities, I’m more cautious the older I get. Running has always been important to me, but I’ve even turned that down a notch, preferring strenuous hill walks to full out running for speed (at least for now).
I’m very fortunate that sports, concerts, travel and food have played significant roles in my life. Venue safety is part of my career, so I pay close attention to what others are doing. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a great experience with the Saints returning to live baseball in our neighborhood, so we only bought tickets to two games. Why? We didn’t feel safe: no security at the gates, seat maps that placed people at the drink rail immediately behind us, other fans not following the guidelines and limited staff to enforce the rules. I get the economics, but what is the long-term damage to your brand if people don’t feel safe? We did have a good experience at the Minnesota Zoo a few weeks back and expect to have a good experience at the Minnesota State Fair Food Parade next week, but it seems critical to me that you get safety figured out.
I miss live music, but I don’t see that industry coming back for a while. The next ticket I have is for a November 27th show at the Fitzgerald, a theater I love. Even with masks and a limited audience (which isn’t possible, since tickets are already sold), I can’t imagine any scenario that would make me feel safe enough to go on that date (and near-zero chance it doesn’t get rescheduled again like every other show I still have tickets for from 2020). I’ve also been reading a lot about Disney, and while thoughts of an uncrowded Disney World are tempting, my internal safety meter says tell Mickey we will see him again later.
The activities I’ve talked about so far mostly involve things that a majority of people would consider first-world privilege. I’m still employed, we’re not facing eviction and we have food on the table. Everyone in the family is still healthy. We have a bit of an economic safety net thanks to inheritance. We have access to reliable transportation. Middle class white males don’t have to face the same issues that women and people of color do as part of their daily existence (I’m working on a draft “On Race” post that I hope to publish soon). So what other safety issue is front and center for me? Crime rates.
When we moved from the suburbs to Lowertown, my mom was very concerned about our safety (even though she also lived in Saint Paul). The area has had ups and downs from a crime standpoint, but I’d never felt threatened here (even at night). The pandemic and the protests following the death of George Floyd have changed the look and atmosphere of downtown Saint Paul. According to the Pioneer Press, there have been more than forty recent arrests in the area around Mears Park and Union Depot for fighting, drug dealing and other criminal activity (including a shooting). Homelessness has also been on the rise and a small tent city can now be seen outside our windows near I-94. There are people needing obvious mental health assistance. I wish I knew the answers to these problems – what we are doing now isn’t working and something needs to change…
Originally published by DK on August 23, 2020 at 9:07 pm