March 4, 2020

A year ago I traveled to NYC for the last time, keeping a lunch appointment with a colleague. It was a beautiful day, spring was in the air and the forsythia was in bloom – bright yellow against a monochromatic backdrop. I snapped a few photos of the city that day. I selected one as my smart phone screen-saver, where it remained, for months, a relic of the ‘before times’.

On the upper west side, children still bounded out of school buses on the way to museum tours. On the surface, life was normal; but it wasn’t. The school children were wearing masks. I was wearing a mask. The streets were quieter. Central Park was empty. A security guard outside the restaurant offered hand sanitizer and then returned to a repetitious cleaning of surfaces. 

I walked 38 blocks instead of riding the subway. Being above ground seemed safer. I used stairwells instead of elevators. I stepped into one shop, but immediately left. There were mysteries in the air and social distancing was about to enter our vocabulary. I had read my share of apocalyptic novels. 

I watched a segment on the evening news where a doctor offered tips to stay safe. Following his directions, I had a supply of Kleenex in my pocket to use as my magic barrier when I opened a door. Those were the early days. But they’re not hard to recall. The fear has stamped a permanent record on my brain, totally accessible even after a full year has passed. Information was scarce and contradictory. Life was changing before my eyes, but the leadership narrative ran counter to reality. 

A year later, the security guard, waiter, diners, school children, docent, parking attendant, toll collector, news agent, retail store staff weave a vivid human GPS thread of that day. All part of a pre-pandemic collage of ‘New York moments’ on the edge. There was joy and laughter on March 4, 2020, a touchstone.

Today, March 4, 2021, more than 80 million doses of vaccine have been administered, reaching 15.9% of the total U.S. population. By May, there will be a sufficient supply for every American adult. What will work and workplace look like as we emerge?

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