Background: AR is my college roommate and friend. She spent the first fifteen years of her life in Minneapolis, Minnesota before moving to Thousand Oaks, California for high school. She is currently in her twenties and attends school at the University of Southern California.
Context: AR and I conducted this interview over Zoom, since this was amidst California’s Stay-At-Home orders for COVID -19. Both of our birthdays are coming up within the next few months, so we began speculating how we could celebrate without gathering a large group of people under one roof. AR brought up the idea of car parades, which I then asked her to elaborate on.
(In the following interview the informant is identified as AR and the interviewer is identified as JS.)
AR: So for my friend’s birthday, her mom organized a little drive-by parade kind of “moment.” Um, and so her brother texted me and asked me if I would come at a certain time and I was like “Heck yeah I will!” Um, so, we surprised her on her birthday and people drove by in their cars and then me and her girlfriend, we got out of the car, and like, stood in her yard and like, had a conversation—social distancing! [Laughs] Um, yeah but that was kind of it because I had class after, so I had to leave early, but yeah it was like a little surprise moment. Yeah.
JS: Did you know about these parades before?
AR: But I feel like now that I know about them, like, I’m not that surprised by them, because I know that for a lot of medical workers people do like drive-bys with posters and stuff, so it’s pretty common…form of communicating in quarantine.
JS: How many people participated? Or like cars or whatever?
AR: Um, there were five cars and then two of them had like family friends in them, and then the other three were like me, her girlfriend, and then like another friend.
JS: Did you guys like dress up at all or make posters?
AR: Um, the family friends did—they made posters. Uh, I mean I guess I wore something nice?…Yeah. [laughs]
JS: Did you guys loop around the block multiple times? How’d you guys meet up beforehand?
AR: We didn’t meet up beforehand. So we all just, like, went to their house and parked on the block. And I texted her brother and was like, “I’m here” and he said “Okay, we’re on the patio”—they have a patio above their garage, and so I came out and stood in their driveway with her girlfriend and just chatted and then some other cars came by and just stopped in the street and said hi and then left.
Thoughts: I’ve also had the opportunity to witness COVID-19 car parades, though the ones I saw were far more disruptive than the ones AR describes. For her, it seemed like the “car parade” was mostly an excuse to come over and talk from six feet away. They did not honk repeatedly or circle around the block multiple times or blast music from their cars, as many of these car parades often do. Still, it’s a pretty clever way to socialize with people while “social-distancing” and provides an excuse for people to get out of the house. I’d guess that it’s a far more common occurrence in suburbs, where most participants have access to a car and don’t have to worry about blocking traffic.