I Moved to Three Different States During a Pandemic. AMA.

What I saw made me question everything, including myself

Max Ufberg
GEN
Published in
8 min readMar 11, 2021

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Illustration: Grace Duong for GEN

The other night, I walked by a crowded bar. Inside, I saw dozens of people clustered together without masks, laughing and drinking. In an adjoining room, a DJ played ’80s classics to a throng of writhing and jerking bodies.

Six weeks ago, before I took up temporary residence in the South, I would have looked with horror at such a bacchanalian scene, seeing it as a selfish and self-destructive display of disregard for Covid safety protocols. Over half a million dead and nearly 30 million cases in the U.S. A cratered economy, thousands of livelihoods lost. And still, these people had the gall to dance indoors, breathing and sweating all over each other.

But after just a few weeks living in the South, I found my baseline viewpoint shifting. Now, as I peered inside the barroom window, watching this display of fun — of heedless, reckless, legally permitted in-person conviviality — I felt a sharp and surprising pang boil up. I was jealous.

My girlfriend and I had abandoned New York City nearly a year earlier. We had good reason to leave. We had just signed a lease on a Brooklyn apartment that turned out to be nearly uninhabitable, as the landlord was unable to finish building out the kitchen or getting the hot water running on the promised time frame. And our old lease had come to an end.

Back then, there were all kinds of rumors floating around — that the military was going to seal off the city from the rest of the country, that helicopters were going to fly overhead and spray disinfectant, that this thing might just be the end of our modern world. The urban shutdown we could see coming meant we’d be stuck sheltering in place, spending the next god knows how many months in our new below-code apartment, fighting with the landlord and taking cold showers. Fortunately, I had grown up just a few hours away from the city, in northeastern Pennsylvania. And so we headed for safer lodgings, packing our clothes and our 16(ish)-year-old cat, Alfie, into my Subaru CrossTrek and driving to my parents’ cabin in the woods, in a part of the country where houses can still be had for $50,000, or less than the cost of a Manhattan parking spot.

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Max Ufberg
GEN
Writer for

Writer and editor. Previously at Medium, Pacific Standard, Wired