The beginning of phase 3 in the province’s COVID-19 response prompted Coasters to take to the road Friday. I was among them.

It was the first time I had visited more than two businesses in one day since February. It was the first time I didn’t use a mask or shield in all of them.

My first destination was Wheatberries in Gibsons, where I met with my writers’ group. We had met on Zoom or with well-distanced outdoor seating over the past three months. Now, with Wheatberries spacing out its indoor tables and my group spacing ourselves from each other, it seemed like life was almost back to normal.

It isn’t fully normal for Wheatberries. The coffee shop lost nine staff during the pandemic. Journalist Cathalynn Cindy Labonte-Smith writes about it in her blog. You can click onto The Write Cup here.

Further up the highway I visited a construction site in Selma Park. It was business as usual for M & M Excavating. The usual business involves workers distanced much farther apart than the recommended two meters. Pictured above, company owner Dave Metketich works at the top of a hill in Selma Park, while a colleague positions blocks at the bottom.

Construction is considered an essential service, so M & M has been working throughout the pandemic. They’ve had lag time waiting for permits from the Sunshine Coast Regional District, but that’s getting better. Metketich just received the permit for the project pictured above.

My next stop was Scotiabank in Sechelt. Branch manager Stuart Spencer said Scotiabank aims to maintain a “realistic branch network” throughout the pandemic. Given the scarcity of banks on the Coast, that means, “unless we actually had a Covid incident, we were to keep it open.”

The bank has been following guidelines for distancing and has installed Plexiglas windows at its desks. “We’ve been vigilant,” Spencer said.

Customer experience lead Carrie Walker said traffic at the branch was slow at the beginning of the pandemic. “Now there’s a steadier flow, but there are fewer financial advisors’ appointments. They use the phone.”

I concluded my day trip at Canadian Tire. It was hard to find a space in the parking lot.

The store has placed markers on the floor to mediate the lineup to the cashiers’ stations, which are shielded. However, the aisles were too narrow for me to keep away from other customers. For the first time that day I donned a mask.

But I didn’t mind. A mask is a courtesy that goes both ways. It protects the wearer and says “I care about your health” to everyone else.

This brings up more good news about the reopening. I noticed throughout the day that courtesy amid the pandemic has grown. A story I wrote in April told of a confrontation at London Drugs over social distancing. When a woman invaded my space, I got nervous. She reacted with ire.

This week, people seemed calmer. The check-out line bunched up at Canadian Tire. People smiled, apologized, and backed away.

It’s great to see the Coast moving back toward normal for people who live and work here. Still, we need to maintain social distancing outside of the bubble of close friends and family that we know to be safe. As provincial health officer Bonnie Henry advises, let’s not only be safe. Let’s be kind.