Life out in the world during COVID is unfair, baffling and confusing

Here’s my beef for today: COVID safeguards and regulations say I can get my hair cut, and even styled—and I have—but I can’t get my nails done. Pet groomers are open, so poodles can get their nails done. But an honest California taxpayer is stuck all alone in the bathroom nursing a bottle of Revlon ColorStay.

I can go to a gym, for perhaps the first time in my life, but I’m afraid for a fitness center to meet safety guidelines it will be like working out in a hamster habitat rather than taking a nice relaxing nap on the bench press.

Hollywood is back in business, sort of. I can now go out and shoot a movie on the streets of Long Beach, but I can’t go to a movie theater to watch my own masterpiece, even though a typical review might proclaim, “It is obviously extremely low-budget, but also stylish and clever. You’ll walk away humming the theme song.” Straight to Netflix.

I can holler at the fact that the health regulations are arbitrary and unfair, but when I do I can hear my teenage voice hollering the same thing at my mom because she wouldn’t let me go to the Colorado River on Spring Break (actually, she did let me go; it was my older sister she wouldn’t let go somewhere fun on the break, because our mom was, in fact, arbitrary and unfair).

Can I stay in a hotel these days? Sure, as long as it’s for “tourism or individual travel.” So if I show up in a Reyn Spooner shirt tucked into my cargo shorts I can go to the Hyatt, but if I have a “Hello, my name is Tim” name tag stuck to my sport coat or I’m, perhaps, sporting a tasseled fez, I’ll be swiftly identified as a conventioneer or business traveler and shown the door.

The unfairness and arbitrariness sprawls up and down the state and throughout the county and city. I can call play-by-play at a professional football game but I can’t sit in the stands with my mouth shut and enjoy the game.

The immense stress of my job can send me to a chiropractor or physical trainer for a massage, and it ends when it ends. But the masseuse working next to the taekwondo studio at a strip mall in Carson is invited to keep her hands to herself.

The time we’re living in is as confusing as it is perilous, fraught in equal amounts with regulations, rules, loopholes, inequities and workarounds. The new normal is utterly abnormal. The day before many restaurants were timidly set to open, the peaceful protests in Long Beach spun off gaggles of looters who worked mayhem on many of those restaurants, and some are only now getting back into a sort of wary business, trying to capture an even shakier clientele because, well, for starters, COVID-19 is still rolling along and is not subsiding in any way that makes very many people eager to resume life without masks. And if they can manage to put the virus out of their mind in favor of a nice evening at their favorite restaurant, the pandemic is brought back in sharp detail when their server approaches armored with not just a mask, but a face shield, since you, the customer aren’t wearing any protection at all, because you’re eating and enjoying cocktails.

And the reason you can drink cocktails is because you’re eating. Another arbitrary thing: Bars are to remain closed. But bars—let’s call them pubs just in order to keep some semblance of order here—that serve food, can open, and you can enjoy a cocktail as long as you also enjoy a bite to eat. Some pubs will sell you a minimal order of fries, which you can pick at throughout the course of your evening.

The Hawk bar on Anaheim Street, is planning a workaround-ish pop-up drive-up parking lot bar on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., with to-go cocktails and the food component being covered by the 4th Horseman. Get your order in by 9 tonight.

Is the fact that they don’t serve food unfair to food-free bars? Yes, it is. And what, exactly, is food? The state’s guidance on restaurants, bars and wineries skirts the philosophical question of “what is food?” In my younger days I would occasionally visit a bar on 7th Street that threw on a pot of hotdogs that cost a dime or a quarter. One could make the argument that that was food. Ditto with a crockpot of chili simmering back by the pool tables. Oh, your bar has pool tables? Then it has to follow the state’s guidance of family entertainment centers, as well.

No matter where you go and how much you’re intending to flap your newfound wings of freedom, there’s still the same old boring stuff you need to do: wear a face covering, stay 6 feet away from other people, sing “Happy Birthday” a couple of time while you wash your hands over and over and if you don’t feel safe going out, don’t go out. And remember, if your dad never told you life is unfair, he didn’t do you any favors.

Support our journalism.

Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.

Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.