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Newsday opinion columnist Michael Dobie's home office as

Newsday opinion columnist Michael Dobie's home office as seen on March 20, 2020. Credit: Newsday/Michael Dobie

 I have a window view in my new workplace.

It's on the second floor of our house, in the room my grandson uses when he sleeps over, at the desk where he does his homework in the afternoons, surrounded by robotic creatures, a big Lego roller coaster and a bunch of Harry Potter 3-D puzzles.

Just beyond the computer screen is the window that overlooks our street. It's a typical suburban street, in a typical suburban neighborhood, with lots of good people, roads not as smooth as we would like, and very few sidewalks on which to walk so we literally take it to the streets.

And now, more people are in the streets.

They pass by, walking, jogging, pushing strollers, riding bikes, in dry weather or wet, in far greater numbers than on a typical day. But these are not typical days. This is a COVID-19 parade.

I watch them and I wonder how many are home because they are working from home, how many are home because their place of work closed, how many are home because they are out of work, how many might not have jobs to go back to.

I think about some of Steven Spielberg's movies, the ones shot in the suburbs with their rows of quiet houses, and you don't know at first which one is filled with mayhem or pain.

Around noon, the mailman arrives. He's wearing plastic gloves. You barely notice anymore.

The delivery man from the Italian restaurant pulls up in front of the house across the street. A pizza delivery car passed moments ago. This is lunchtime. I look at the house, hoping the 80-plus-year-old couple we've known forever is still doing OK.

A man who looks to be in his 60s pushes past on a scooter, one hand on the handlebars, the other gripping a leash tugged by a good-sized dog, watching a young boy riding a bicycle beside him. He has a lot to balance. We all do.

Two girls stroll by, smartphones in hand. They could be in college. I think about my niece, graduating in May, no commencement ceremony, no senior activities, no fond farewells with classmates and professors. How will this color their view of the times in which we live?

I look at the new life on our somewhat sleepy street, and think about lively streets elsewhere that suddenly are sleepy. The world is changing, right outside and far beyond our windows. It's happened before, during the Great Depression, during World War II, though for many of us those are just stories. How will it change for us now?

Will the nature of work evolve, with more of us staying home? Will our favorite restaurants, gyms and movie theaters return? Will we want to keep feeling the rediscovered pleasures of a family dinner, or a brisk walk? Will we succumb to the convenience of home delivery? Will the virus, once it leaves, come back stronger in the fall, as the Spanish flu did in 1918, as epidemiologists warn could happen again?

As the afternoon wears on, some walkers pause by the Little Free Library outside our house to glance at the books inside. And I think about my nephew who now has bedtime stories read to him, in bed in the evening, by his preschool teacher on FaceTime. I think of others now playing poker on FaceTime. And the comics, singers and regular folks going online to entertain us. And the way that social media, the destroyer of social interaction, now delivers it.

The sun sets outside the window, the shape of things becoming indistinct. Still, I watch. 

Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday's editorial board.

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