Many New Yorkers are approaching the one month mark of self-quarantining inside their homes to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. In that time, so much of the city has been shuttered to dissuade people from going out—from cultural institutions such as museums and libraries, to concert venues and Broadway, to restaurants and bars that can't stay in business with delivery-only service. A city that has always felt filled with endless hidden corners, that has always thrived because of its limitless capacity for activity, has been shrunk down to the size of our individual apartments, give or take a few blocks in your neighborhood.

Nothing is going back to normal in the immediate future, and being holed up in apartments without in-person social contact for months might make some of us go a bit stir crazy soon—assuming it hasn't already started for you. But there is a way to partially resurrect your everyday NYC routine in the meantime: consider Normplay.

Think of it as similar to the way some people do date night, or cosplay, or more kinky stuff. Normplay is when a person starts recreating their previously normal lives inside their homes using whatever they have on hand. All the activities and errands we used to take for granted gain new significance in their absence—they now must become an active choice or roleplay scenario. Normplay is meant to be both a dignified response and a little bit demented, befitting the times we are living in.

So you could normplay mundane everyday tasks such as going to the dentist or waiting at the DMV to get your license renewed with just a few tweaks to your apartment (investing in some cheap, terrible fluorescent light bulbs would be a start) and the right costumes. Do you find yourself inexplicably missing those cavernous NYC slush lagoons which feed on people's footwear? You can normplay jumping over them by hopping around on various pieces of furniture.

Below, check out ten normplay scenarios you can try out at home from Gothamist and illustrator Matt Lubchansky.

Closet Subway Normplay: There may be no more quintessential NYC experience than riding the subway. Although there are still first responders and front line workers who need to use the trains, there has been a huge decrease in subway ridership over the last month, and service has been reduced in tandem. If you are finding yourself suddenly going through subway withdrawal, we have some good news: you can recreate the subway experience in your bedroom. Set it up on YouTube so that it plays loops of recordings of MTA announcements and delays; dress up in your normal work attire, then stand in your closet holding onto the clothing rack pensively. Placing all your shirts and coats on hangers around you can help recreate the feeling of being packed into an overly-crowded train.

You could also recreate the subway experience in the bathroom by setting up the laptop in there, dressing in work attire, and holding onto the shower curtain rod. As a bonus, steam up the bathroom beforehand to recreate the feeling of being stuck in a train without air conditioning.

An illustration of Closet Subway normplay, showing a man holding onto his closet coat rack

Closet Subway normplay

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Closet Subway normplay
Matt Lubchansky/Gothamist

Fancy Restaurant Normplay: While you are hopefully ordering food from your favorite local restaurants as much as you feel comfortable doing so, eating at home just cannot capture the je ne sais quoi of going out for a nice meal. Until now that is: bring the fancy restaurant into your apartment with just a few simple steps. First, get dressed up to fit the kind of level of fancy you're feeling. Make a fake menu using a textbook or something, I can't figure everything out for you; put the specials up on the wall, even if you have to scrawl them directly on the wall with permanent marker. Make your cat or dog be your waiter for the evening by draping a napkin over one of their ligaments (or their back, that might be easier).

You can then mix it up depending on the type of restaurant you wish you were at by playing the appropriate mood music at a volume that is slightly too loud to hear yourself think but not quite loud enough that it bothers your neighbors. (If you want to pivot to a bar experience, just spill some beer on the floor and put the music up until the next door building can hear it—and feel free to virtually tip your favorite bartender on Venmo.)

An illustration of Fancy Restaurant normplay,  showing a woman in her apartment ordering dinner from her cat waiter.

Fancy Restaurant normplay

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Fancy Restaurant normplay
Matt Lubchansky/Gothamist

Ratplay Normplay: Remember the good old days when you could always rely on seeing a rat practice its pole dancing routine or carrying a cup of coffee or trying to blend in with subway riders during your commute? One of the things New Yorkers are most missing right now is being in sync with our rattus norvegicus friends. This one works best if you have a roommate or partner who you are quarantining with: craft a rat costume (or order online), and then take turns chasing each other around the apartment with a broom yelling, "You're no pizza rat!"

An illustration of Rat normplay, showing a woman chasing a person dressed in a rat costume with a broom.

Ratplay

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Alternate Side Parking Normplay: Did you ever think the day would come that you would actually miss alternate side parking?!? It's now been over two weeks since motorists were forced to ritualistically move their vehicles back and forth across the street to appease the ancient beings who first came up with the impenetrable rules, and avoid a $65 ticket. Here's a nifty way to bring a little bit of that stress back into your life: first, write your own hieroglyphic-like signage (make sure it's as confusing as possible, and filled with random exceptions for made-up holidays), put them up on either side of your apartment, and then move everything in your home from one side (Monday/Thursday) to the other (Tuesday/Friday) at the designated time (the more inconvenient the better). The best part? Car owners and the people they pay to move their vehicles aren't the only ones who get to enjoy this classic NYC ritual—now cyclists, straphangers and walkers can all get in on the fun!

An illustration of Alternate Side Parking normplay, showing a man pushing his couch against his wall.

Alternate Side Parking normplay

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Alternate Side Parking normplay
Matt Lubchansky/Gothamist

Museum Normplay: The museums in the city have been closed since the second week of March, and there's no indication yet when they may reopen—nor whether they'll all be able to reopen. And as nice as it is to be able to virtually visit some of those museums, it just isn't the same not being in the physical space. So what you can do in the meantime is put up every piece of paper, drawing and photo you have on the walls of your living room. Then write some pretentious blurbs for them on index cards explaining their biographical and metaphorical significance, and voila: your own personal museum. Don't forget to write an artist's statement. And if you're familiar at all with carpentry, feel free to make frames for the pieces out of your furniture!

An illustration of Museum normplay, showing a person thoughtfully staring at taped up things on their wall.

Museum normplay

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Broadway Normplay: Almost exactly a month ago, Broadway was defiant in the face of the pandemic. Then ushers started testing positive for coronavirus, Governor Cuomo suspended all performances, and The Great White Way went dark. But the show must go on... even if it's just in your living room. First, memorize some songs from your favorite musicals (assuming you haven't already done this). Make a playlist of the music on YouTube or Spotify (or do it a cappella, go wild). Create a makeshift "stage" and surround yourself with a bunch of dolls, stuffed animals and whatever other audience surrogates you can find in your home. Break out your best outfit—the more sequins the better. Got a top hat lying around? Why wouldn't you?! (You can buy one for less than $10 on Amazon.) And worst case scenario, you can always force your roommate/partner to memorize all the lines from Fiddler On The Roof, that is considered a mitzvah.

An illustration of Broadway normplay, showing a person singing showtunes to stuffed animals.

Broadway normplay

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Broadway normplay
Matt Lubchansky/Gothamist

NYC Summer Normplay: Of course we're all hoping and praying that we'll be able to go out to Rockaway Beach, Jacob Riis Park and Fort Tilden come July. But what if it still is too dicey—or if you're still feeling too anxious to be around large crowds at that point? What is summer in the city without the summer part? This is what to do: grab an umbrella and beach chair and set it up next to your window. Fill up a tub or a box or your biggest glass with water. Find your most comically-oversized hat. Get crafty and cut out a paper sun using cardboard (if you have a yellow marker or yellow paper, all the better), then tape it on the wall. Make some homemade nutcrackers and fill up a cooler. Grab a piece of old meat, throw it on the radiator, and voila—you'll have authentic sweat stains in no time.

An illustration of NYC Summer normplay, showing a person sitting under an umbrella in their apartment drinking a nutcracker.

NYC Summer normplay

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NYC Summer normplay
Matt Lubchansky/Gothamist

Traffic Normplay: Vehicular traffic in the city has decreased by over 70 percent since the pandemic broke out, which is ostensibly a very good thing (if only the mayor would take advantage of this opportunity and open up more streets to the public, but alas). But maybe you're the kind of freak who misses the absolute chaos of cars honking in agony on Varick Street on a Friday afternoon. Maybe you've begun to prefer the comforting regularity of that mayhem over the eerie emptiness of the streets (not to mention the constant sound of sirens).

In that case, here's an easy fix: rearrange your furniture so that you can pretend to be in traffic, set up your phone and computer on different pieces so it is playing various sounds of honking and beeping, and buy an air horn or any other noisemaker online for the cherry on top. The closer you hold it to your ear, the more real it'll feel. And if you have a roommate/partner who can angrily shout at you, "start movin' ya dinkus," you are truly set.

An illustration of Traffic normplay, showing a person blowing an air horn into their ear surrounded by other noisemakers on chairs around them.

Traffic normplay

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Movie Theater Normplay: With AMC, the largest movie theater chain in the country, facing financial ruin and potentially having to close down, things seem dire for the movie theater industry right now. Don't you already miss the communal experience of spending $18 to watch Liam Neeson as a murder-happy snowplow driver and soaking in all that free air conditioning while wondering whether or not there's been a bedbug outbreak in the theater since you put your phone on silent? You can conjure that by plopping down on your couch and pouring some soda on the ground to recreate an authentic sticky floor. Top it off by throwing some popcorn on the couch and onto yourself. You can even Zoom in some friends to watch the same film simultaneously if you want someone to shush.

An illustration of Movie Theater normplay, showing a person spilling soda onto the floor while watching a movie in the dark.

Movie Theater normplay

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Movie Theater normplay
Matt Lubchansky/Gothamist

SUCKA Normplay: Don't you miss the thrill of having an unexpected, perhaps even uncomfortable run-in with a stranger on the street? NYC is filled with characters, some of whom are easier to get along with than others—but that's just part of the magic of the urban landscape. So here's a fun normplay to do with a roommate/partner/Zoom buddy: one of you memorizes the monologue of the world's angriest NYU Film School graduate, while the other plays the unsuspecting musician who is a no-talent SUCKA. Take turns crushing each other's dreams into dust. For the musician: wear a dark baseball cap and carry any musical instrument you have (trumpet is obviously preferred, but if you don't have anything, you can always use an empty roll of toilet paper or paper towels as a stand-in). And for The Critic, wear a mop handle on your head and make sure to carry a trash bag. And never forget those golden words: "You are nothing and you will never be anything you miserable mediocre nothing."

An illustration of SUCKA normplay, showing a person delivering the classic "Trumpet Fight" monologue to a person playing a musician.

SUCKA normplay

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Do you have other suggestions for potential NYC-themed normplay opportunities? Email us at tips@gothamist.com, and/or send us a photo of your real life normplaying.