Monday was a ‘feeling out’ day. Maine went mask-less on May 24th, and I for one was ready. However, just because our Gov said it was OK, with reservations of course, didn’t mean that every business, and/or person, had signed on. As government is so want to do, they just opened the cage. It was up to each individual and business to decide whether or not they wanted to step out. Many of the chain stores relaxed their mask requirements, as did our supermarket. But not without a plea to unvaccinated shoppers to please mask up and to those of us that were, well, they wouldn’t be upset if we did so too.
So, it was with some trepidation that I entered the hallowed halls of produce and perceptions. I casually looked around me to scope the atmosphere and found that more then half the people were still masked. It was a little unnerving to be the only bare faced guy checking out the vegetables. I soon found myself looking for others ‘of my kind’ with a subconscious urge to surround myself with them. It turned out this was going to be harder then I thought. I was obviously in the minority.
As I progressed, I started chastising myself for my feelings of unease, frequently reaching into my pocket and fondling the mask I had brought for moral support. Be brave, I thought. Soon, more people will take heart from your actions and themselves begin to cast off the bonds of maskdom. You will be seen as a leader, unafraid, forging a new future.
Soon, my feelings of forced isolation began to wane and I stood a little straighter, walking with more confidence. However, since the directional arrows had been removed from the aisles, it was now possible and probable that you were going to meet other people moving in the opposite direction, and I did. Rounding a corner, I was confronted by a dad and his two young daughters, all masked. I didn’t think anything of it at first until I noticed one of the daughters staring at me and she appeared to be frowning. In a gesture of civility, I smiled. She did not smile back. As I passed their cart, she stepped a little closer to her father, her gaze never wavering. After passing them, I had to look back and sure enough, she was still staring. All my bravado began to recede and my quilt trip began. I had just been dissed by an 8 year old.
In retrospect, it occurred that we adults may have a rocky road to travel, at least initially, where it pertains to the kids. Niether of those little girls were yet 12 so showing them my immunization card probably would not make a difference. They were too young to carry one and were probably too young to read it anyway. They were just emerging from a prolonged environment where school meant a few hours daily on a computer and playing outside was a memory. Physical interaction is something that had been eliminated from their life over a year ago. The only thing, at least to them, that had changed, was me.
I am going out again today, and again, I am going to cast off the chains of isolation wherever and whenever possible. I will again display my newly regained sense of freedom, although, not assertively. But I can’t help wondering about that dad and his two girls. I wonder how long it will be before one of them climbs in his lap and says “Dad, are the people with faces the same as us”?