When, at the beginning of the pandemic, the world started banging on pots and pans at 7 p.m. in support of essential workers, I thought it was stupid. It's not like I'm heartless, it just always seemed self-serving and inane. As people on my timeline relished in self-satisfied condescension ("I'm just glad to hear my neighbors are still alive," one tweeted), I quietly rolled my eyes until everyone else slowly stopped opening their windows to clang. Elsewhere, the tradition seemed to quietly peter out as winter fell.
Except in my neighborhood.
Yes, 18 months after the pandemic started, my neighbors are still clanging pots and pans, sure as clockwork, at 7 p.m..
Now, I live in a very odd neighborhood in Manhattan. It's mostly known for being the site of New York Post coverage about NYPD-data-manufactured crimewaves or Citibike theft. But mostly it is a neighborhood of yuppies with strollers and boutique purebred dogs (condos around 11th Ave.), single-room occupancy buildings (8th Ave.-ish), and old people who have lived here for decades (and their spawns who live with them and eventually inherit the rent control (me)). It is a great neighborhood to be old-as-shit in — seminars about tripping and falling as safely as possible, a pie shop that will sell by-the-slice. But mostly, community. Community that gathers daily to make as much noise as reasonably possible, ostensibly for the essential workers even though it is mostly because the community rooms are likely still closed and thus pinochle hasn't yet returned. Look, I've been to DIY noise shows, I know what it is like to desperately settle for any semblance of community.
I have to admit: banging pots and pans absolutely rules when it's done 18 months after everyone else has stopped. While I can no longer hear the ruckus from my window, it's a short walk (half an avenue) to the communal outdoor space where they gather (next to the basketball courts). During the clanging's early days, you could hear the noise everywhere. But I only became aware of the continued practice while skateboarding last year, and again when I happened to walk my dog around 7 p.m. It is an enclosed enclave — unless you are an 11-year-old playing basketball or live immediately nearby, you might be living in ignorant bliss. Sure enough, there was one guy there with a drum, the definite purpose of which is mainly to be beaten every evening.
But I bristled with fear as 7 p.m. approached. Was I witnessing the first ever, in 18 months, dissolution of the banging? Had the last pot been clanged? There was another senior citizen shuffling down holding a bona fide steel pot (now we're cooking with gas). But 7 p.m. came and went. I know because I had begun recording video to catch the entire affair. But nothing. 7:01, 7:02 passed. I had never known such despondence. Until 7:03, when a group of the gals and guys finally gathered and started a-clanging. Unbelievably, the clanging continued for five entire minutes. I had to stop recording the video because it was going on for so long. At 7:08 most of the clangs died down, slowly, until there was just one, that then, itself, stopped clanging. I returned to my hermitage of cynicism, briefly relieved by the absurdity, as my neighbors lingered, holding their kitchenware, for another evening. Losers.