Dispatches from home: A hat tip to modern technology

It’s easy to take it for granted, but life in 2020 is more manageable in isolation when you have working Wi-Fi and a mini computer in the palm of your hand.

Could small businesses have survived a pandemic as recently as a dozen years ago? Modern technology, like marketing on social media and using user-friendly, contact-free apps like Venmo have helped places like Blackwood’s Holy Tomato continue to conduct business in the last month. (RYAN LAWRENCE/The Sun)

The sound was both startling and scary, perhaps if not surprising.

Did a meteor land on my roof? Perhaps the chimney came crashing down?

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A week that began last Friday with a windstorm ripping the siding off the left side of my house continued on Monday when another storm — this one served with a side of the always comforting tornado watch — tore the siding from the chimney above the living room.

So when I heard the crash on Wednesday night, not long after I sat down for a night of Netflix bingeing, I figured the house I’ve been trapped in for a month was beginning to turn on us. “Dispatches from a Destroyed Home” just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

As it turns out, the latest frightening sound came from the garage. One of the lethally tight springs snapped off the garage door opener. 

While the house might be collapsing around us, I had to feel fortunate; within the walls, we were OK. We were healthy. We had jobs that allowed us to work from home (and, for the most part, remain at home). 

And, thanks to our friend the internet, we’ve been well fed and entertained, too.

If the COVID-19 isolation has left you down and out (or, more accurately, down and in), it’s completely understandable. None of us signed up for this. We’d all love to go back to seeing friends and family, going to parks and ballparks, not wearing ski masks while buying gas and not hunting down toilet paper online like some sort of crazy person.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of the coronavirus pandemic’s nasty cousins, self-pity and depression. But maybe those of us lucky enough to have a roof over our heads (at least as of deadline) and working internet should count our blessings for the luxury of modern technology and how it’s made this less-than-ideal spring at least a workable one.

I graduated high school 25 years ago next month. Can I imagine what my life would have been like in a pandemic isolation in 1995? Sure. 

There wouldn’t be any Netflix marathons or grocery shopping from the comfort of a couch and a two-and-a-half pound laptop. Something as mundane as paying bills would have still required me to find a way to the post office to buy stamps. There wouldn’t be nonstop social media feeds to inform, entertain and suck time away. There wouldn’t be FaceTime to see my niece and nephews (the iPhone didn’t debut until 12 years later) or Houseparty to play games online with friends.

Even a few years later the only Zoom I’d heard of was that catchy “zoom-zoom-zoom” car commercial. The worldwide web of 20 years ago, compared to how we live today, was prehistoric.

But even in 2005, life wasn’t as it is now, with just about anything you want and need on the little computer in the palm of your hand.

That isn’t to make light of the very serious issues a lot of us are faced with this spring.  

Job stability is tenuous and paychecks are slimmer as companies deal with the first aftershock of our month-long battle against the coronavirus pandemic. And, more importantly, our health is at risk any time we leave our homes and interact with others, which, for some people and their livelihoods, is unavoidable.

But for those of us fortunate enough to live in a bubble world that is our home and neighborhood, let’s raise our glasses to the conveniences afforded to us by modern technology.

It hasn’t only made going through our daily chores more manageable, it’s helped businesses keep going, too. 

At the end of the first day of my house falling apart from the never-ending wind storms, I investigated to see if there was anywhere nearby to get a six-pack on a Friday night. Sure enough, the closest liquor store to my house not only allowed online shopping and buying, but it also had contact-free curbside pickup: An employee checked my ID through a closed car window before he placed the package in my trunk.

Two days earlier, I got dinner the same way. 

Holy Tomato in Blackwood, a cash-only pizza shop nearing its 10th anniversary under current family ownership, has been thriving by using social media for marketing (their viral Facebook videos have been inventive) and Venmo for contact-free transactions.

Curbside available from 2pm-8pm. Venmo, cash, or PayPal!!Tonight’s Specials:1/2 Price Toppings $4 Sopapilla Cheesecake ($2 savings!)Don’t forget to add salads, drinks and desserts!!!

Posted by Holy Tomato Pies on Wednesday, March 18, 2020

“Things have been going very, very well,” said Washington Township’s Summer Stanley, who works alongside her mom and her sister at Holy Tomato. “We weren’t expecting it at the beginning. We were taking it one day at a time and waiting for the rug to be taken out from under us. And we weren’t sure if more restrictions were coming down from the government that would have made us close down completely. But in a lot of ways we’re doing better than we’ve ever been doing. 

“We’ve been extremely, extremely fortunate.”

Last Wednesday, Stanley posted a photo of a pie on special that night to Holy Tomato’s Facebook page. The result? They made as many pies that night as they would have on a normal Friday night. 

Would a small business like theirs have survived in a similar climate 10 years ago? Maybe not. 

But thanks to the easy-to-use apps of today, smart businesses have a captive, tech-friendly audience. And when that captive audience is well fed, it’s a win-win transaction.

Will we all be happier when we can hang out with friends, visit family, and actually go back into the restaurants we like, worry free? Sure.

But until then, let’s be thankful for the relative ease of everyday life in 2020.

Ryan is a veteran journalist of 20 years. He’s worked at the Courier-Post, Philadelphia Daily News, Delaware County Daily Times, primarily as a sportswriter, and is currently a sports editor at Newspaper Media Group and an adjunct journalism instructor at Rowan University.
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