Thursday April 30, 2020
I try to honor the newly dead as I pass the mobile morgue in Greenwich Village. My honoring is diminutive, simply lowering my head and holding attention for a moment four or five nights each week. Tonight as I rode by, earlier than any night in the last six weeks, a lone car passed at the precise instant we crossed the narrow front end of the morgue. I had sensed that the compressor was not running as I approached, but the car’s noise left me unsure. I circled back to check. It was silent.
This seemed to be a sign of change. Have all those souls moved on? Or did I happen to catch an off-cycle of the compressor? Despite the warmer weather it was chilly with a light rain; even on the coldest nights since late March, the compressor was always running. These mobile morgues are the same kind of tractor-trailers you see on highways—the kind with a “chiller, “a small, slightly aerodynamic freezer unit, mounted on the short front face. The side walls of this trailer have been thinly white washed.
Things are changing.
The New York City subway is going to shut down between midnight and five AM every night. That is even earlier than Paris – not fitting for this town. The cars will be cleaned during the early morning hours. Is a perfectly clean car at 5:00 still clean at 8:00 AM? There are so few riders these days that it might be. But by late morning or early afternoon, is the car any safer than it was the day before? This sort of effort may relate to the post 9/11 strategy of stationing heavily-armed forces not to allay terror threats directly, but to create a cloud of safety over the blanket of fear they wove.