I Took A Ferry to New Jersey

Notes After My First Leisurely Day Trip During The COVID19 Pandemic

When the COVID-19 Pandemic began raging in New York City, I hunkered down. For 53 days (March 22-May 14), I did not venture more than 100 feet from home and mostly stayed inside. It was mentally and emotionally draining, but I found ways to cope; one of which is thinking about the fun things I’d get to do in the summer when this was over.

Every summer, I have sort of a New York City To-Do List; some of my favorite things to do in the city during the summer months. Most involve being on a boat; a tour cruise around Manhattan Island, a dinner cruise, ferry hopping. It’s nice to be outside in the summer, its even better to be on the water.

Last summer, my mother and I were waiting for a ferry to Rockaway, Queens from Wall Street and across the dock, we saw a Seastreak ferry boarding for New Jersey. The Seastreak ferries are much larger, more luxurious commuter ferries that take commuters from the suburban towns along Raritan Bay near Sandy Hook to Manhattan. They also run summer weekend ferries to Martha’s Vineyard from Midtown Manhattan.

My mother wanted to take the ferry to wherever it lands in New Jersey and do some exploring, so we did. Mom and I went on the first cool, cloudy day in late August to Highland, New Jersey and got off, with no plans on where to go. We walked around, found a nice little restaurant called the Inlet Cafe, had lunch and some drinks, walked back to the ferry and went home, vowing to do it again next summer on a nicer day.

Then a pandemic happened.

While under lockdown, Mom and I kept telling ourselves that when summer came and it was over, we’d do our ferry rides and our day trips on my days off. But as lockdown dragged into May and early June, it became clear that maybe, we might not get to do our fun summer day trips after all. It was disappointing, but not earth-shattering for her, but for me, it left me extremely depressed.

Some people labeled it entitlement, selfishness, weakness; that I wouldn’t be able to sacrifice some of my fun summer adventures with my mother to protect lives and help stop a virus. Obviously not taking a ferry trip to New Jersey is a minor inconvenience, but it left me sad and angry nevertheless.

In my life, I’ve seen how fast parents can be taken from people. Friends who have lost their moms and dads in a matter of months to a late-stage cancer diagnosis or illness. I just lost one of my favorite teachers that way. So sometimes I think to myself – is the last year I have with my mom or dad or cousin or aunt? And if it is, how would I feel if I didn’t get to enjoy it with them; if I didn’t get to everything I can with them. We can’t take it for granted that our lives will just stay on hold until after the pandemic; many of us may not make it to the other side of this. The desire to socialize and do things like go to a restaurant or take a trip are not about selfishness or weakness, its about the human recognition that life is short and we need to cherish every moment and “indefinitely” is a long time.

We can’t take it for granted that our lives will just stay on hold until after the pandemic.

In any event, Inlet Cafe opened for outdoor dining and the ferries were sailing, so on Thursday we masked up and took the trip. There was a little anxiety to it. It was the first time I’ve been around large groups of strangers since March, and while I was able to keep a distance most of the time, and spent almost every moment of the trip outdoors, you were still left to wonder – who has it?

I felt a tinge of guilt – that the ferry workers, the wait staff and others were at work instead of somewhere safe just to satisfy my needs, but the reality is, they’d be working anyway. They are essential services. And living is essential as well, we just have to find a way to do it safely and securely. Certainly EVERYTHING can’t happened right now – concerts are off, nightclubs are out, cruise trip are indefinitely delayed – but some stuff can happen safely. This is why I don’t understand the opposition to wearing masks – it is a low effort way toward gaining our lives back and enjoy life. It was perfectly acceptable to me that in order to enjoy a day trip with my mom doing one of our favorite things, I’d have to just put on a damn mask.

I’m certain I did not contract COVID-19 from my outing Thursday, the infection rate in the New York area being as low as it is, but my concern is always there. It’ll be several weeks before I take my next leisurely outing, conditions pending, but it felt good to at least get some of my life back.

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