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.