Doing their best to put a brave face on things, Pike Place Market wants you to know that “there has never been a better time for locals to enjoy their Market without the usual Summer crowds.”
That’s a nice way of saying “this whole pandemic thing sure has scared people away,” but they’re not wrong that crowds are thinner and that’s made the place easier to explore — and at the risk of sounding like a tourist guide, it really is home to some lovely shops.
The Market has some particularly unique challenges in re-opening, as it’s designed somewhat like a rabbit’s warren of narrow tunnels and squeezy foyers. But they’ve done an impressive job of adapting to current conditions. There are tons of new signs everywhere about where to stand and which tables to leave empty; they’ve installed new handwashing stations all over the place; and there are plexiglass dividers between seating areas. If you’re going to venture out of the house, there are certainly worse places you could go — and it’s possible that a trip to the market could actually be good for your health.
Because so much of the Market is open-air, rather than a fully enclosed building, there are some sections that are probably safer than cramming into a crowded closed-in supermarket. Not only can you pick up the usual produce and fish, but they have meal kits to reduce the need to linger in aisles. Some of the restaurants have expanded out onto patios. And crafters are offering pleasant hand-made masks.
What’s more, many of the vendors are working to supply volunteers with food and masks — Atrium Kitchen has donated 4,000 meals to people in need, and Eighth Generation donated 10,000 masks to Seattle’s Indian Health Board.
Look, we all know these are not great times for leaving the house; I’m certainly not going outside unless I have to; getting to the market is a bit of a challenge since it's probably best to avoid buses and trains right now; and if you’re immunocompromised I don't think any stroll around other people is advisable if you don't have to.
On the other hand, despite being a habitual shut-in, I’m finding that strict quarantine is taking a mental health toll that’s none too pleasant in its own way. On the occasions when I do scamper down the street to get some food or send some mail, the sight of plywood-covered stores and cloth-covered faces is jarring and stressful; and I suspect that part of getting through this pandemic is going to require that we get used to the sight of a different sort of Seattle.
So. Spending a little time in a risk-managed environment might still carry some hazard of viral transmission, but it could also go a long way toward relieving the stress of being alive at this terrible time. And if Pike Place Market is doing what they can to give us a safe place to see other humans while supporting local small businesses … well, that doesn’t sound totally unreasonable.
That having been said, folks, this whole "there's never been a better time" thing is ... come on, now. It may not be a bad time but hoo boy I bet I can imagine lots of better ones.