By Alan S. Chartock | August 15, 2020

In these times of COVID-19, people are trying their best to survive. One way is to get out of town and in this case, town means the big cities and specifically New York. This is a real estate happy dream in the suburbs and in out-of-the-way vacation places like Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where I live.

The basis of all wars is territory, as in, “Take one step over this line and I’ll kill you.” This is nothing new — you read it all the time. It is not surprising that when there are fairly mass migrations from the city to other places, there will be resentments. There is a story that made the rounds in my town a few years back that someone was allegedly heard to say in a loud voice, “I wish the townspeople would remember to stay away on weekends. This is our time.” People swear that actually happened. This is the stuff of legends and goes a long way toward explaining some of the new resentments.

One relative newcomer, for example, is all bent out of shape that someone was illegally keeping chickens and, more importantly, a rooster. Can you imagine a Manhattanite who has lived so long with the constant sirens of ambulances and police cars blowing off steam about a rooster crowing and inadvertently waking her early in the morning?

Along with some other governors, Andrew Cuomo has insisted that those coming into his state must self-quarantine. My son and grandson live in New Orleans and they can’t come visit because of the quarantine rules. Trust me, I get it. But it’s as if this is one of those old Westerns that had “Private Property” or “No Trespassing” signs as the trigger for the ensuing range wars. Obviously, this goes back to the ancient cave dwellers and is old as man and womankind. Stay out of my yard because you are different.

This virus, however, is a new thing. It is real and there are some states that have not done what is needed to “flatten the curve.” Some red state Republican governors were too late in mandating that people wear masks and as a result, there is virus hell to pay in their states. Since one person with an active virus can potentially infect a hundred others, what would you do if you were Andrew Cuomo? You have to do what you must to protect the people of your state, even if it causes massive inconvenience, like my not being able to see my grandchild or someone not being able to visit a loved one in a nursing home.

When transplants moved to my town, there were some people who shouted, “Go home.” Yes, these newcomers were often second home owners or people who shelled out a lot of money to buy a house here. Appropriately, they asked, “Why can’t I live in my own house?” Of course, all of this defies rationality. Like I said, it goes back to the caves. It’s why so many people irrationally buy guns to “protect” themselves.

One can only wonder what will happen when the vaccines arrive and things get back to normal. Will there be a residue of this bitterness?

We do know that houses in our area are selling like hot cakes. “Not enough inventory” is the lament of some of our local real estate folks. Interestingly, now that people have found they can easily telecommute, many have decided to stay in their second homes and forego city living.

But that underlines the fact that second homes are the purview of the better off among us and the people who can’t pick up and move will be exposed to the virus. That is just one reason why the those of fewer resources are so much more vulnerable to this disease.

In the meantime, people are still saying. “Stay out of here!”