Hypocrites ‘scared’ to return to the office are reveling in NYC nightlife
Go back to the office? And risk contracting the virus from a fully vaccinated, masked-up colleague half a floor away? No way!
But supper at a nice little bistro will be fine even with other maskless diners sitting cheek-to-cheek, spewing their tequila-scented breaths in our faces.
This is Riddle No. 1 of our city’s “recovery” — jam-packed dining rooms and near-empty office buildings. Did somebody say “hypocrisy” with a capital H?
We all know the reasons work-from-home enthusiasts give for refusing to return to their workplaces. They fear crowds, density, subways full of unmasked hordes, and offices that writhe with COVID’s Delta variant.
Mysteriously, many of these same Delta hysterics show up at oodles of crowded events and activities in NYC — and especially restaurants.
Employers indulge these “fears,” postponing again and again every planned large-scale office return. But if dense restaurant crowds have not caused any upticks in the city’s rates of infection and hospitalization, why should low-capacity offices be so terrifying? Largely because of mass vaccination, no viral outbreaks have been reported at restaurants since indoor dining resumed in February. The city’s new-case rate among tested people over the past seven days is barely 2 percent.
And yet, some people I know remain in their suburban compounds despite repeated Instagram assertions that they can’t wait to return to the city. They give away the game with photos that show them making merry with friends at favorite brasseries, trattorias and taquerias — not only in the ’burbs, but in Manhattan.
An editor friend of mine who works for a high-profile media site gnashed her teeth over underlings who won’t come to the office — “but they eat out all the time,” she said. “Our office has about 20 people widely spread out over half a floor. Some restaurants will seat 20 people at one table.”
My wife and I recently befriended two 30-something guys at a table next to ours at Blue Mezze on Second Avenue at East 77th Street. Both worked in finance. Both said they had yet to return to their offices. Both said they usually ate indoors at restaurants.
Restaurants have been free to operate at 100 percent legal capacity since May. That means neighboring banquette seats one foot away. It means brushing bodies in the aisles, at the host stand and on bathroom lines. It means potential viral spread propelled by loud shouting and laughter.
But offices? The relatively few companies that dragged employees back in large numbers have a zillion stringent rules. Six-feet spacing! Masks at the water cooler! No talking in elevators! Regulations you’ll never see at your local restaurant, store or cinema.
But no amount of reason can sway people to return to the workplace, which offers proper ventilation and room to spread out. Even though we know that vaccines prevent catching the virus or getting seriously ill in rare “breakthrough” cases, workers won’t budge from home.
As a result, while most restaurants are near or at 100 percent full at peak times, New York City metro-area office occupancy was a pathetic 27.6 percent last week, according to Kastle Systems’ Back-to-Work Barometer.
Employers need to grow a spine and demand their workers come back. There is absolutely no good reason for their absence in a town that’s crowded and alive everywhere else.
In the meantime, you can blame hypocritical New Yorkers and their cowardly bosses for keeping our great office towers — the engines of our city’s economy — indefinitely dark.