Editor’s Letter: Navigating the New Normal

Given a little freedom, we naturally want more. But how can master the art of partaking responsibly?

The first of May was the kind of day that could almost make you forget a deadly pandemic. After weeks of teasing, spring arrived in a definitive burst. Trees that just a day earlier bore only half-hearted buds exploded into bloom like Christmas lights on a timer.

By afternoon, the urge to bust out of the house-office-school and do something decadently normal proved irresistible. So, my wife and I knocked off work, corralled our stir-crazy kids, and set off for our favorite frozen treats shop, whose annual reopening that day couldn’t have been better timed.

Dan Caccavaro
Dan Caccavaro

What we found when we arrived was sobering, a case study in just how tough it’s going to be for Americans to tiptoe back into normalcy without erasing our hard-earned gains against this virus. While social distancing stars had been painted 6 feet apart on the pavement, almost no one heeded them. Other than one young couple and the kids working the windows, we were the only people in masks.

Worst of all were the clusters of unmasked teens, who hugged and high-fived, roughhoused, and crowded into other customers, including me and my lame, mask-wearing family. When I asked one pimply boy to please take a step back, he shot me that “Dude, what’s your problem?” eye roll. To which my own eyes retorted: “You mean, besides the lethal virus? Besides that?”

As irritated as I was, I really couldn’t blame the kid. After months of confinement, that moment of freedom tasted sweeter than my kids’ Raspberry Flurries. And that taste was just a tease. Given a little freedom, we naturally want more. We want all. It was very easy on that spectacular spring day to think, “Oh, what’s the harm?”

Two stories by Steve Friess in this month’s issue should put that question to rest. The first is Steve’s interview with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, who is leading the state’s urgent effort to unravel the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on people of color. Gilchrist himself had lost 16 friends and family members to the virus at the time of the interview. The second is Dr. Zafar Shamoon’s account of a typical 12-hour shift as head of emergency medicine at Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn, where the battle against COVID-19 rages even as we’re out savoring our frozen custards.

I’m not going to lie — I want out of confinement as much as anyone. Editing this year’s Best of Detroit issue from the little room over my garage was a torturous reminder that so much of what we love about this city remains tantalizingly out of reach.

I hope by the time this issue comes out, we’ll be able to enjoy much more of it. I also hope we’ll be over the giddiness of those first intoxicating sips of “normal” and will have mastered the art of partaking responsibly.