Slow Bustling in Georgetown

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Construction and public work projects — like this one on 35th Street — stand out, as the town has mostly closed up. Georgetowner photo.

Georgetown may be officially shut down. Most all the retail shops are closed and neighbors are sheltering in place. Only occasional cars drive through the residential neighborhoods and commercial streets. There is ample parking everywhere.

But Georgetown is not dead. There is actually a slow bustle going on. 

The streets and sidewalks are clean. Garbage is picked up early and neighbors attend to their curb gardens for exercise and social life. Little kids with face coverings stop their scooters and peer at stuffed animals in many of the neighborhood windows — the Georgetown Street Safari. 

Joggers, bicyclists and parents pushing strollers and push-bikes, with toddlers peddling lackadaisically, pass by in proper social-distance spacing (not always with their faces covered).

There also are, almost everywhere, dogs. Dogs walking people. Dogs playing unleashed in the parks. Dogs greeting their friends with sniffs and licks while their owners stand six or more feet apart, mumbling amiably, poop bags ready in gloved hands, morning, noon and night. 

And the tennis players — at least the recreational ones — are partially back. The chains across the tennis court gates are gone and, while there are no nets or basketball hoops, players work out against the wall and over a rope tied between net posts.

Some of the stores along the commercial area are boarded up. Most are closed. But some bakeries and ice cream stores are open for takeout, as well as corner grocery stores, drug stores, convenience stores and the like. Lines form in front of Trader Joe’s. Safeway has one-way aisles and some products are scarce. Along with the expected disappearance of paper goods, hand sanitizer and liquid hand soap, there are shortages of flour, olive oil, spices (especially cinnamon) and lime juice, among other items.  

Some restaurants are expanding takeout. Some let customers sit outside on their patio tables to eat. Some small cafes are trying to figure out if they can reopen at all, given the need for six-foot spacing between customers.

What isn’t lacking throughout Georgetown, however, are construction workers. Street paving and building repair and construction projects seem to be everywhere, especially on the west side near the empty Georgetown University campus. Yes, the workers often wear company-issued masks, but they can’t really engage in social distancing and still get the job done.  

Similarly, pest control and utility trucks and workers are often seen on Georgetown streets these days, not to mention ambulances. Are the emergency vehicles really here more often than before or are they just more gut-wrenchingly noticeable? The scene is made surreal by small clusters of (in many cases) masked neighbors watching from doorways.

Still, Georgetown neighbors gather, so to speak, for quarantine birthday parties, at which the honoree waves from a home window and doors are decorated with balloons and banners; friends and passersby loudly clap their congratulations. And there is the neighborhood wave on R Street at 6 p.m. and Sunday concerts at various corners, notably 29th and Dumbarton Streets. 

Spring is coming to Georgetown, though the seasonal bustle has been muffled and s l o w e d down.

A hand cleaning station sits at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street NW. Georgetowner photo.
Life goes on: Jed is celebrating a birthday on O Street NW. Georgetowner photo.
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