The New Norman
As the midmorning heat and shrill screech of cicadas promised that summer was far from over, brightly colored signs materialized throughout the city of Norman, Oklahoma. A suburban siren song, the graphic flags ushered eager Normanites away from main thoroughfares and into the heart of residential areas. Locals were seemingly unfazed by the influx of bargain hunters as the search for potential treasure troves commenced. Nothing, not even a global pandemic, would thwart the launch of a traditional event, “The 16th Annual Citywide Garage Sale,” hosted 07-09 August 2020.
The affair, referred to as “Garage Sale Weekend,” is an indicator of seasonal change and the arrival of cooler weather in the weeks to come. Once a year, the city council incentivizes vendors by waiving the mandatory permits and fees associated with organizing yard sales. Subsequently, Norman evolved into a hive of second-hand retail activity for approximately seventy-two hours.
Providing the perfect excuse to escape from the pressures of daily living, a scorching hot temperature forecast failed to deter residents from attending the seasonal extravaganza. In yet another show of solidarity during a pandemic, citizens also flocked to the monthly flea market kickoff. A prime vending location for purveyors of antiques and assorted bric-a-brac, the market was postponed in April due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. As such events begin to reappear, the town and its residents are experiencing a return to normalcy.
Yet beneath the thrill of discovering rare collectibles and antiques lurked an unspoken trepidation that accompanies the harsh realities of a global health care crisis.
Regional newspaper, The Norman Transcript, provided detailed COVID-19 infection statistics for the state of Oklahoma in a short article published on day two of the garage sale. Shockingly, 825 Oklahomans tested positive for the virus on 07 August, to include 17 new cases within Norman city limits. A ninefold increase in daily infection rates throughout the previous months illustrates a substantial leap from the 91 cases that were recorded in early June. As state health officials confirmed forty-three thousand positive COVID-19 test results, several local inhabitants have questioned the efficacy of maintaining such pomp and circumstance.
Graciously optimistic, Normanites welcomed both the garage sale and flea market crowd, despite a burgeoning swell of newly infected residents. Roughly 40% of participants donned facial masks and a sole retailer offered hand sanitizer as consumers perused the cornucopia of goods. However, several vendors designed their respective areas with social distancing measures in consideration. In doing so, shoppers were afforded an opportunity to meander without apprehension. Efforts to curtail the possibility of unnecessarily endangering participants were quite noteworthy.
Photo Credit: Jacklyn Hennion
Adhering to the proper social distancing guidelines proved challenging for the bustling crowd attending the flea market, yet not altogether impossible. In fact, the group that assembled at the event was considerably larger than the garage sale congregation, yet the percentage of individuals with facial masks remained comparable.
Goods were exchanged between buyers and sellers; the latter retreated to the cool shade of open garages while the former leapt into their air-conditioned vehicles and simply drove away. If participants were concerned about the potential of contracting COVID-19, less than robust safeguarding efforts certainly demonstrated a cause for further consideration. Furthermore, the facial mask ordinance (No. O-2021-3) mandated by the Norman City Council in an effort to “flatten the curve” was blatantly disregarded and unenforced.
Although the global health care crisis has prevented a true return to a normal way of life in many parts of the world, Norman, Oklahoma remains an anomaly. Living each day to the fullest extent, in spite of guidelines recommended by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, is a philosophy that illustrates the mentality of those residing in the midwestern town. Normanites have proven themselves immune to deviations in tradition; perhaps such impunity will also extend to the adverse effects of the current pandemic.
1630 EDT – Author: Jacklyn Hennion, Illustrator: Madinah Slaise