Pollyanna Confronts the Coronavirus on the Upper West Side


Photo of Polyanna statue in New Hampshire via wikimedia.

By Carol Tannenhauser

Pollyanna got through life by always — no matter what the circumstances — finding something to be glad about. Even considering her “glad game” now seems almost sacrilegious. People are dying. Whole countries are closed. Money is evaporating. My mind wanders through the landscape that is New York City: nearly empty streets and sidewalks; schools, bars, restaurants and theaters closed. I snap back to the subject at hand: things to be glad about. I’ll start.

I talk to my children more. I’m sequestered with my husband of 48 years, mostly, for better. I speak for hours with friends, old and new. I write to my heart’s content. As the days pass, my normal sense of pressure to get out and do more is fading, even when the sun is shining. I feel oddly peaceful. Admittedly, I don’t have to worry about finances, yet. I’ve started cooking.

I’m sorry! I think. I shouldn’t be enjoying myself. But this mandatory shutdown of our lives has forced upon us a new order. We’re living in ways we’ve never had to before. Not when Kennedy was killed or the World Trade Center came down or Pearl Harbor was bombed (I’ve heard.) Not through a hurricane or an earthquake or eruption. Those shared threats were tangible and finite; we coped, mourned and moved on. This one is unseen, unknown and open ended. It lurks and spreads exponentially…Wait a minute! We’re talking about golden linings here, good things brought about by the coronavirus. Your turn.

COLUMNS | 21 comments | permalink
    1. Addiction to the “tube” waning. Writing more. Interacting with family/friends online and on the phone. Took out the dusty stationary bike and weights and started indoor exercise again. Still scared to go out, but will have to summon the courage again to take a walk in the Park. Reading Hilary Mantel’s long and dense new novel The Mirror & The Light, last in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy. Creatively using food that’s in the house to create new recipes for my blog. So. Yeah. There are at least some silver linings.

    2. UWSHebrew says:

      Turn off the news, watch as little as possible (seeing our mayor makes me physically ill). Go outside, sunlight and fresh air is very important, especially for older people. Wear gloves to push the elevator buttons and open door handles. Amazon Prime has better original shows than Netflix, I recommend Man In The High Castle.

      • Partisan Schmartisan says:

        Not the time for politics, thank you. But you might want to visit a GI doctor once this blows over. Your stomach seems to be on the weak side.

    3. What Matters To Us Living Here says:

      It is remarkable how much Americans have changed since the Vietnam War protest days. Then we were slimmer and actively protesting to end involvement in something that did not represent who we are. In just 40+ years we have become overfed consumers of American sugar, corporatized media and most of all fear-mongering. Are we are too well fed to move about?

      The Italian Air Force helps its citizens as they fight for their country. The Danes sing together. The French hold open air concerts from their balconies for one another. The Americans? We watch late night comedians from our sofas as they make fun of everyone else.

      Ironic how gyms and yoga studios are closed in NYC, but take out and delivery remains intact! Exercise helps boost the immune system.

      As George Bernard Shaw said, “This planet is obviously being used by other planets as an insane asylum.”

      • UWSHebrew says:

        I go to the gym every day (well, until recently), but if you read how dangerous they are for transmission of the virus, you’ll realize how necessary it is that they stay closed. Last week there was a guy who did not stop coughing in my gym and I got off the treadmill and ran out.

      • Uwsmom says:

        Keep in mind that we are behind the Italians and the Danes and the French in this situation. They did not start singing, etc until now…we aren’t as far along- the Pollyanna in me says there’s still plenty of time for the Americans’ spirits to present itself.

      • Carol says:

        Right on!

      • Swami says:

        You’ve given me a great idea.
        Gym closed, take out food available?

        Introducing the TAKE OUT GYM!
        You do the exercises at home.
        Equipment rental at additional cost.

    4. Marian says:

      Gives us readers inspiration!! Very clever approach to such an overwhelming subject!!

    5. Filatura says:

      As a child I despised Pollyanna who, when crutches arrived in the charity barrel instead of new clothes, she was glad BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T NEED THEM. (I wasn’t nuts about Rebecca of Sunnyside Farm either.) But I love this article. My golden lining includes being forced out of my electronic comfort zone and figuring out how to negotiate meetings, classes and friendships remotely via Zoom.

    6. Ladybug says:

      Spring arrived long before its official arrival. There is so much in bloom in our parks, Central, Riverside, Verdi Square, Teddy Roosevelt – the plants are 3-4 weeks of their old schedule, but they are here in time to entertain us during this crisis. Go for a walk and enjoy life!

    7. JS says:

      Certainly been happy to do a lot of walking in the crisp spring like weather and bright sunshine. Exercise is healthy for both mind and body….good luck to all.
      This is an excellent article…..has me thinking.

    8. I’m reading more, as my television is connected to nothing (my spat with AT&T in their new guise as “Directv” reached the breaking point last June).

      My hope is that, if a lot of shops sadly have to shutter their doors, and if, as a result, rents crater, it would be great if new second-hand bookstores opened in their stead (not that I’m holding my breath or anything…).

      PS- I’m already a customer at Westsider Bookstore on B’way between 80th-81st.

    9. Christine Farro says:

      Exactly! I’ve written more, hiked outdoors more and expressed more gratitude than usual. I’m eating less junk, since I’m out of junk and don’t want to court disaster by going out for junk. I drive uo to Grant Park and back every two days; thus I’m using less gas. I’m saving SO much money avoiding used book stores and thrift stores. My cup (in a very world) runneth over.

    10. Ragsy says:

      Yes, there is always a silver lining and it is a wonderful sign of resilience and good mental health to find the best in a bad situation and use it to soldier on. BRAVA

    11. Liz Shackelford says:

      This is great In some way it could be a blessing in disguise. Hopefully we will permanently change our pace, slowing down and being more courteous.

    12. Coz says:

      Less vehicles on the road,equals less toxic carbon emissions in the air, cleaner air, better health! Less is more,for the time being.

    13. Anisia Quiñones says:

      You’re not alone. Lots of us share your feelings.

    14. Ruth Bonnet says:

      First world problem, but here in California, dog walkers are not considered essential workers, so I actually have to take a lunch break and walk my dog! Very blessed to be able to work from home and have an understanding boss. Saving money, since we can’t go out to eat. Also, it stopped raining. Lots to be grateful for. Stay strong, New York!