Social distancing brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic might have exacerbated the co-dependence on technology for some, but throughout Falls Church and Seven Corners, a quiet rebellion of people breaking away from the screens can be seen at the checkout counters.
“I’m so excited to be able to do something that isn’t wallowing in my room and being bored,” said 21-year-old Abby Kiros who is buying paints for her first home improvement project at the Home Depot in Seven Corners.
Kiros is painting a mirror that she was taking back to take to James Madison University for her fall semester.
The amount of hobby-focused customers at Home Depot, Michaels Craft Store and Barnes & Noble has shown that many people are surviving the quarantine from a care-free public life by reframing their attitudes.
“I think you have a chance to look at a lot of things you never see and you get a chance to change how you see them,” said retiree Fern Bertwistle.
Bertwistle has been hit both by social seclusion and a foot surgery that left her unable to pursue her regular hobbies like gardening and bicycling. So instead, she’s here to paint her wall.
Over at the craft store Michaels, Mindy Tran is shopping for new wools for her mother. Tran’s mother has had a lot more time to knit since the lockdowns were imposed.
Tran is shopping with her boyfriend. When asked about their hobbies, Tran’s boyfriend said he was playing more computer games while Mindy Tran has been on her tablet more.
Still there might be some hope: “She definitely wants me to get into sewing and knitting with her,” Tran’s boyfriend, who asked not to be identified for the story, said. “It just seems really difficult and I’m going to college soon.”
According to nutritionist Nora Shank, she’s been seeing a lot of home cleaning and gardening in her Sleepy Hollow neighborhood.
“On my street, you can see piles of trash which means lots of spring cleaning is going on,” she said.
There are also those who don’t suffer the cabin fever as well for jobs that take them out of the house.
Real-estate agent Tori McKinney, for example, leaves her house two to three days a week. Her favorite activities during the lockdowns has been watching Facebook live concerts from musicians’ home studios. She also likes sitting out back on her veranda and reading the Sunday paper.
One of the more persistent concerns about the stillness of this moment is how it affects kids.
“The danger is kids need to be with other kids in person, they need to be socializing with other people and their passions. Most of what they enjoy involves other people. Technology can’t replace that,” said psychologist Doug Fagan, who serves as the director of the Reservoir Psychology Group at The Lab School of Washington. He was shopping for books at Barnes and Noble with his 14-year-old son Jeremy.
Jeremy’s time away from the grid has been spent pursuing music. In addition to being in the school marching band, he plays saxophone and keyboards in his own band, Fifth Avenue Blue.
“They’re playing at home and electronically sharing their stuff on SoundCloud. They’d prefer to be in the same room, but this is better than not doing nothing,” he said.
Part of the upside for certain commercial outlets is that they can provide a new experience that people crave.
Thirteen-year-old Nora Kenzi is at Barnes & Noble because she said “the physical copy is much more satisfying.”
Similarly, marketing professional Allie de la Croix has taken to buying plants at the Home Depot because, “buying plants is something to do physically outside.”
There have also been changes in what’s being bought.
At Victory Comics in Falls Church City, general manager Gareth Hoskins said that they’ve been selling more of the long term games that might take an hour to play as opposed to 15 or 30 minutes.
He also has seen increased sales in miniature war games, which require building and painting.
“There’s a bigger focus on family groups, so kids are starting to spend more time with their family,” said Doodlehopper 4 Kids manager Caroline Roane. “We try to offer more games and stuff with couples or groups, and hopefully their friends when things are going to start getting back to as normal as we can.”
The Falls Church toy shop said it’s seen a lot of support since opening its doors at the end of May, though Roane admits it was a little slow at first because people were cautious about re-entering stores during the Covid-19 era.
Part of the appeal has been to enhance the unique effect of the in-store experience.
“As a small business, we try to make it kind of an experience as opposed to a big box store. You can see, and touch, and interact with a staff that’s very knowledgeable,” said Roane.