No Chance To Say Goodbye

A slice of Americana, a mom and pop business, trustworthy and successful, until a virus and government ended its life.

March 15, 2021

In this 21st century, will 2020 be thought of as its most challenging and life-altering year? Will future generations look back and judge us for the way we dealt with our duties and responsibilities as Americans, and in particular how we handled the pandemic. Of course of great significance in their determination of whether we successfully defeated the virus will be the human factor, the number of people that succumbed; presently that figure stands at over half a million. Hopefully, without sounding too morbid, the death count will diminish in time, and the sooner the better. 

The judgment of those who succeed us, however, I believe should be favorable in at least one respect, the cooperative efforts of science, government, and big business that all contributed and played a part in developing vaccines that were accomplished in record breaking time, in something called Operation Warp Speed. This attack on a deadly virus saved tens and eventually hundreds of millions of lives, and the president who had the foresight and tenacity to bring this undertaking to fruition was nothing short of miraculous.

There were several other factors of the pandemic that had a tremendous impact on the American psyche. Aside from religious liberty, unemployment, education, government overreach, and questions about the safety and efficiency of vaccines, there was the small business owner. Many were victims of rioting and looting during the summer of 2020, and had their businesses and livelihoods destroyed. Others could not afford the loss of their customer base and steady income, watching the business they had built up and spent their life savings on slowly diminish before their eyes. This is one of those stories.

There is a bridge that spans across a rail line, river, and highway, and that connects two counties. Some might say the difference in the locations is rather stark; the one side is more middle to lower income, and the other upper-middle-class to, let’s say, well to do. When crossing the bridge to the latter side, one can see the bright neon light of a small quaint delicatessen, the Parkway. The owners were a friendly and outgoing couple, husband and wife, who prepared tasty sandwiches and hot meals, there was a coffee bar, cakes and cookies, soft drinks, groceries, the daily newspapers, and lest I forget the lottery.

On occasion, I would stop by to say hello and indulge in a breakfast sandwich and coffee, or tea. Mr. and Mrs. were always welcoming, smiling and pleasant in their demeanor, and thankful for the business. But then the pandemic happened, so things changed and were not the same. One of the main reasons was that on the bridge I spoke about, there are the north and southbound rail line stations that each day took its passengers on a 45-minute trip. Each morning you would find a long line of people traversing along the bridge pathway; most were young and middle-aged men and women finely dressed and heading for their jobs in the big city. Many would stop by the delicatessen for something to indulge in while they traveled on the train. All that stopped.

About a month ago when I stopped by, Mr. and Mrs. greeted me with their usual welcoming smiles, but I sensed something was wrong. After exchanging a few pleasantries, I asked how their business was doing. Their demeanor changed and became rather somber; they then told me that they were considering closing the business, they had lost a good part of their customer base and could not afford the expenses. I made a purchase and explained how they would be missed, and hoped things would change for them.
When I travel across the bridge now, that long line of travelers is no more; cars, trucks, and buses still cross the expanse, but nothing else save a very few lonely walkers. Just recently as I crossed the bridge, I noticed the neon sign was unlit. I approached the Parkway Deli and peered inside through the window - there was darkness; the interior looked to be in a disheveled state as though being taken apart.

The Parkway deli is no more; people I spoke with tell me that it happened almost overnight. The owners, good, decent, hardworking business people were just two of many victims of this ruthless invisible killer and government overreach, and both showed no mercy. When we defeat this virus, which now seems almost assured, and things get back to some semblance of normality, maybe the Parkway Deli will return and the neon light will shine bright again, and the void it left in its departure will be filled, but until then that little corner of the world will remain empty and dark, its former occupant now only a memory in the minds of the residents of better happier days, and what once was.   

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