Oddments

In search of story


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April 7.21: Coping

Until the next pandemic

we’ll pack our masks away;

I’ve no idea when,

but it will be some day.

They’ll go into the drawer

inscribed The Fibber McGee,

where souvenirs and remnants

await next century.

When comes that barefaced day

we hug with glad impunity,

when everyone is safe

with ’round-the globe immunity,

I think that I might feel

a twinge of slight regret

and miss that unloved sign

of one-for-all mindset.

I’ll miss the muffled greeting of

“Hey, I like your mask!”

acclaimed by passerby

I didn’t even ask.

And then I must return

to pre-pandemic place

where no one ever hails me

with “Hey, I like your face!”

 

 

 


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December 8.20: Coping

Yesterday my phone quit. Disheveled, wild-eyed, I scrapped my to-do list and headed for the phone store, where I took my place on the proper social-distance marker. It appeared a long wait was ahead; I was right. A cool-headed young man, the lone employee, was trying valiantly to take care of two accounts with a small masked throng gathering.

In all, I stood for about an hour, enjoying my steady intake of carbon dioxide.  At one point, the cool-headed employee offered snacks; this was not encouraging: do people wait so long there that they have to be fed?

My hips aching, my face steamed, my spirit sagging from the pure misery of being stuck in a world of gizmos, I was dimly aware that more customers had come in behind me. And suddenly everything changed. “Put your mask on!” “Shut up!” This began a shouted rage among three customers.

The anger was intense on both sides. It was impossible not to notice how close to the surface this anger was. The flare-up was too loud, too quick, too easy. The furious unmasked stormed out.

Finally someone looked at my poor phone and said I needed a new one. I drove across the street to Target and bought some Christmas M&Ms instead. Mint M&Ms.

The vicious rumor that my phone dates from the rule of Charlemagne notwithstanding, I am not adjusting well to this. I don’t want a phone. I want some peace. And reason. While my hat’s off to the cool employee who responded so professionally to the outburst, even the powers of Christmas M&Ms couldn’t undo its effects.

In this past year, I have seen much kindness and patience among strangers. It is, I fear, wearing thin.


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June 9.20: Coping

Yesterday I had a moment in a paint store that sent me into laughter which almost suffocated me because I was wearing a mask. Afterward I thought about it.

A man was buffing the floor, likely enjoying the sauna behind his mask as much as I was enjoying mine while I maneuvered with my usual grace amid shelves and social distance markers. The COVID pas-de-deux.  As it happened, I ended up apparently in his path: my assertion that I was trying to not be in the way was met with his “Well, then, MOVE!” This hit my funny bone hard. Thus my suffocation.

We all have our gifts. Mine is to be in the way. My dad had variations on “you’re in the way,” the best of which was “go tell your mother she wants you.” The man with the machine yesterday would have fit into my family perfectly.

As I chuckled my way home, I reflected on the mask as a new wrinkle in such a moment (pun intended). He was wearing a baseball cap so all I could see was a bit of grey hair and his eyes. Maybe MOVE! was grumped at me. I don’t think it was, but how would I know? We did not see each other’s faces — this should be remarkable. It isn’t! What a weird world we have landed in.