Opinion & Editorial

Watching the world through front window

Noel Nash

People-watching remains an enjoyable pastime for most people, I imagine. 

Whether you’re waiting in an airport, vacationing abroad (like, say, Alabama), a shopping mall or busy downtown sidewalk, it’s fun to check out how others act and interact.

There could be an element of voyeurism to it, although I think of it more benignly; I’m a detached, observant eye. That is all. No judgment. No rooting for or against. Simply observing it all, the cadence of their steps, speech, and level of awareness.

My perch at The Chronicle is well-positioned to see plenty; not everything, of course. It provides two large windows in which to monitor the traffic on Oregon Avenue – foot traffic as well as trains and cars. And also campers and logging trucks so big that they block out the sun when stopped in front of the newspaper, waiting to cross the railroad tracks. At those moments, like these extended weeks and months, it feels much darker than it really is. 

Inside the newsroom, I fold in “watching” among the multitasking of other assignments.

I get up and pace, alone with the office furniture and computer screens, taking a break from writing, editing, designing, assigning stories, brainstorming with colleagues on conference calls, discussing Sales and Marketing, digital and social designs and strategies, and … yes, how to survive COVID-19. The staff is working remotely, and I visit the newsroom for a few hours most days. I drive around neighborhoods from Springfield to Creswell to Cottage Grove, trying to get a sense for activity. I witness the lines around the food pantries, the families and couples out walking. 

Yes, I see things. 

I see people of all ages walking down the sidewalks, especially in front of The Chronicle and the Creswell Wellness Center, looking earnestly inside the outdoor flower baskets to see if they spot a painted rock. And when they do discover one, you appreciate the excitement that made their random walk feel like they were the big winners of an Easter-egg hunt.

I see the happy creases around Susan Blachnick’s eyes, and it makes me feel good, because I know they are proof of a great, big smile behind that mask. 

There goes Suzanne Peterson, efficiently navigating the sidewalks and street crossings – stopping to chat in her most polite way while making it clear there is a purpose to her outing. She is on a mission. 

I see the steady stream of people going in and out of Fast Mart. I’ve seen bustling action at Creswell 76, am/pm, and the Dari Marts, too. Again, my perspective gives me a better view of the convenience store directly across the street. What are the takeaways from that casual surveillance?

Almost no one gives a second thought to touching the outer door handle. It’s amazing, really. 

They get out with a mask over their face, and then grab that door handle with their bare hand, apparently never giving a thought to who touched just before. People still awkwardly reach to hold the door for others, and it ends up with even more people pushing, pulling and touching the door. I see people wiping their faces while getting out of the car, and then grabbing that door handle. People keeping their physical distance from others, very purposefully, and then grabbing that door handle. Some guy licking his fingers … before grabbing that door handle. 

Inside the newsroom, I watch the City Council meeting, because outside of my window, I can see the marquee over City Hall stating that it is encouraging people to participate online. And what I really see in that meeting are public servants doing everything they can to serve residents.

I hear things, too. 

The Chronicle has Dak Thai restaurant and Pazzo’s on each side of the building, and the uneven rhythm of hammers, furniture be re-arranged and power drills indicate renewal to my ears. The local eateries are prepping for a reopening instead of chopping up veggies or soup stock. It’s encouraging to hear movement. 

Overall, one of the biggest takeaways, is simply how busy it is and has been the past few weeks. My sense is that the pandemic still is not “real” or “visible” enough for people to truly adjust their behaviors and practice physical distancing. 

We are a social and active community, and you can scan social media sites to see all of the ways we’re trying to connect virtually. Still, the pull to “move on” and lighten up on the social distancing is strong. Leaders with Lane County Parks are admonishing people to keep their distances. If you are an essential worker and are out of your house regularly, I’m guessing you notice the recent uptick in activity with the beautiful weather.

We’ve advocated from the beginning that we should be following our health experts’ guidance. We have mitigated the impact of the virus. Let’s not stop now.

Noel Nash is publisher of The Chronicle.



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos