• 59°

Buice column: Life as it once was has changed drastically

On a typical night, the parking lot at Pete’s Family Restaurant is packed with vehicles as patrons head inside to put their names on the list in anticipation of getting a table and enjoying some good comfort food.

Not anymore. These days, there’s plenty of room in the parking lot. No worries about beating the crowd and avoiding a wait.

Everything started to change last month, and particularly for restaurants on March 16, when Gov. Roy Cooper ordered all N.C. restaurants and bars to be closed to dine-in customers — but still allowing takeout and delivery — in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Since then, the steady stream of more restrictions continued early last week with a state mandate to keep public schools closed until May 15 along with the closures of gyms/health clubs, hair/nail salons, movie theaters and the like, and further reductions on mass gatherings.

And then the Village of Clemmons became the first municipality in the county to impose a shelter-in-place order, followed by the City of Winston-Salem, Forsyth County and ultimately the state with stay-at-home mandates. Then President Donald Trump extended the national shutdown through April.

Welcome to the new normal as the novel coronavirus has drastically changed life in virtually every way we used to know it in Clemmons and across the state, nation and the world.

That certainly includes Pete’s, a local landmark that has been a popular destination on Lewisville-Clemmons Road for more than 40 years.

On a visit on the first Friday night after the shift to takeout only, there was just two other cars out in front of the restaurant when I pulled up to retrieve my order.

Upon entering the glass doors leading to the foyer, I was met by an eerie silence and empty restaurant with three or four takeout bags sitting on one of the tables up front where customers used to eat.

I gave my name to one of the young ladies there, and she retrieved my order and brought it to the cash register, where I paid and departed.

It all felt so strange, but that’s just the way it is now.

We all have to eat, so make sure to include supporting your favorite local restaurants as your budget allows by ordering takeout. And leave a nice tip, too.

Restaurants, like many things we always have taken for granted, are such a big part of everyday life. Of course, they are included in a business landscape that has been crushed by the impact of the coronavirus — and the likely ultimate recession — with so many people out of work and scrambling to file for unemployment to stay afloat financially.

And while we need to “get back to work” as quickly as possible, prioritizing our health and doing what we all need to do — to stay safe and keep others safe by following all the necessary mandates — is paramount.

These are extraordinary days, particularly with all the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, but let’s hope this most unusual pause in our daily lives will help us get to the other side.

For sure, we will get through this. We will.

• • • • •

Some random thoughts:

• With many of us having lots of extra time in our days, take time to reach out to someone in need, or even not in need. Take a walk. Read a book. Find a new hobby. Take on a project.

• Be informed, but don’t watch the news all day. It’s not healthy.

• I never dreamed I’d see a world without sports. No March Madness. No NBA or NHL. No Opening Day for Major League Baseball. The Masters was supposed to be next week. The list goes on and on.

• This from an old friend joking around on social media two days into life without sports: “Found a lady sitting on my couch. Apparently she’s my wife. She seems nice.”

• Another former colleague, who is a history buff, writing in his blog about the scarcity of hand sanitizer in these days: “During World War II, in the peak production years of 1943-45, the United States was producing more than 5,000 warplanes per month. In 2020, I can’t find a bottle of Purell hand sanitizer anywhere.”

• Speaking of shortages, how much toilet paper is enough for some people?

• And a special word of thanks and gratitude to all those on the front lines who are putting themselves in harm’s way every day in this pandemic. They are all true heroes.