Woog's World: In the beginning, we did not know what to expect

In the beginning, when Westport schools closed abruptly, we were assured they would reopen in two weeks.

That stretched to four, then through the entire semester. So we turned our attention to fall. It seemed inconceivable that school could not reopen then; the only question was what it would look like. Now the first day of school is less than a month away. So many questions remain unanswered, from transportation and lunch to scheduling and childcare for teachers’ own kids. It is slowly dawning on us that “education” as we know it has changed not just for a couple of months in the spring, but perhaps forever.

In the beginning, we foraged in stores.

We traded tips on where to buy Lysol and paper towels. We hoarded toilet paper. We worried when Trader Joe’s closed because an employee was diagnosed with COVID, and worried that Stop & Shop was swarmed with so many customers but did not close. Now life is more settled. We buy whatever cleaner is on the shelves. We realize we do not need 25 different brands of deodorant, or 36 types of toothpaste. We follow the arrows through Trader Joe’s, we put our own groceries in our cloth bags at Stop & Shop, and we understand that the men and women stocking the shelves and working the registers are not the nameless, faceless folks we always treated them as — even if we now cannot see their faces below their eyes.

In the beginning, when restaurants shut their doors, we wondered how they would survive.

Very quickly, they adapted with curbside pickup and home deliveries. We adapted too, ordering online and tipping well. We watched Tavern on Main and Le Penguin close, and did what we could to ensure that our favorites were not next. Now that restaurants are reopening — first outside, then with tables spaced properly inside — we are venturing back. We realized the importance of sharing meals with friends (even without the dining buzz we were used to), while supporting the owners, chefs and wait staff who had always been there for us. Half a loaf is far better than none.

In the beginning, we had no idea how to work from home.

What were these things called Zoom calls? How could we function without business trips, business lunches and dinners, business as usual? It did not take long though to recognize the value in all those hours not spent commuting, all that money not spent on dry cleaning, all that flexibility to do our jobs when and where we choose. Now we understand that “business as usual” was not necessarily the best way to work. We recognize we do not have to fly all over the country for meetings of a few minutes, or spend three hours a day getting to and from an office. Yet unless we are in commercial real estate, we are not thinking about what all those empty office buildings mean for America.

In the beginning, we headed to the beach.

Sure, it was still March. But we needed a place to congregate, to see other human beings, to assure ourselves some things had not changed. There were too many of us, however, and the town closed the beach. Gradually the rules eased; gradually we returned. Now it’s summer. Now the beach is as packed as half-capacity allows. Now we are grateful to have the sand and sun and Soundview Drive. Some of us abide by all the rules. Some of us follow some. Some of us party like it’s 1999. Or 2019.

In the beginning, we erupted in a frenzy of community spirit.

We delivered groceries to neighbors, collected canned goods for nearby towns and PPE for first responders. We sewed masks. We painted rocks with encouraging messages. We created webpages filled with information, bought gift cards to keep merchants afloat, rang bells on Wednesdays at 5. Now we still do some of those things. It is not easy to sustain the frenzied activity of those first few weeks. It is hard to ask for help, particularly when an individual or organization has asked before. But that is what a community does. In many ways, the past few months have shown that Westport is indeed a caring, giving community.

In the beginning, real estate agents feared the worst.

Who, they wondered, would ever buy a home in a lockdown? Plenty of people, it turns out. They come in droves. They buy sight unseen. They rent at astronomical prices. Now an entirely new, and quite unexpected, bunch of families have arrived in Westport. They love what they see — and they haven’t seen the real Westport at all.

In the beginning, we did not know what to expect.

Now we still don’t. Yet we’ve shown since March, we will adapt. And why not? We always have.

Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog’s World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at dwoog@optonline.net. His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.