Anything else? I wrack my brain. Oh yes. Mask—check!
Even now, more than a year since the initial lockdown, more often than not, I forget to don my mask when I leave the house.
During the first couple of months after the mask mandate was declared, I canceled all medical appointments, and ordered groceries for delivery online. I only left the house to go for walks. Several weeks later, when restaurants opened for delivery and I felt comfortable doing so, I ordered the odd meal to be left on my front porch. Even now that many of the restrictions have been lifted, I rarely leave the house.
The first time I passed a human being while on a walk, I smiled as I normally would, then realized he couldn’t see my smile. By the time it occurred to me to nod or say “Hello” instead, I’d passed him. My next in-person encounter was when I saw a friend across the street from my house. Excited, I called his name as I crossed over. My first instinct was to hug him, but I immediately nixed that. What to do? I giggled on the inside at the thought of touching elbows or feet—the Hokey-Pokey came to mind. Instead, I greeted him with a Namaste. He reciprocated laughing. After that initial awkwardness, we settled into normal chitchat, as we used to before the pandemic.
My next encounter was at a dental appointment. I hadn’t driven in a couple of months. I fumbled with the car keys for a split second. I had to examine the fob to figure out which button to press to unlock the door. Once I got in the car, I took my time to settle into the driver’s seat—it felt odd somehow, foreign. I sat for a minute to get my bearings, not quite sure what to do with the keys. Ah yes, into the ignition! Next, turn it on? No—mirrors, then ignition. How far should I turn the key? Wait! Seatbelt! Now the key. I located the handbrake, and gas and brake pedals. Taking the car out of Park didn’t come naturally either. But once I got the car out of the driveway and moving, everything fell into place. The experience reminded me of the first time I sat behind the wheel after the brain surgeries—I hadn’t driven for almost a year. Everything felt so wrong.
Once I reached the dentist’s office, the weirdness returned. The note on the door indicated that before I enter the office, I needed to put on a mask and phone the front desk to notify them of my arrival. Then I had to make sure that I stood six feet away from the receptionist while I leaned in so she could take my temperature. The dental hygienist and the dentist wore hazmat suits. I wasn’t sure at what point to take my mask off. It was all so different, the same yet not the same—so surreal.
The first time I went to the grocery store also felt odd, as did my first trip to the post office, and the first time I had company. All the firsts after the lockdown felt a little bit off. Every new and renewed experience was filled with brief pauses while I adjusted. Every in-person contact with the rest of humanity was accompanied with a level of awkwardness.
Some firsts were more joyful than awkward. Once both my son and I were fully vaccinated, I breathed a sigh of relief. No more hesitation about seeing each other. No more mask-wearing while we were together. I delighted in how he looked without his mask—his beard had filled out. He looked so handsome. A few minutes into the visit, I suddenly squealed, “We can hug!”
The hug was fierce. Daniel, in his enthusiasm, lifted me off the floor—he is significantly taller than me, by several inches. We both wore goofy grins when we reluctantly let go.
I know that there are more adjustment in my post-pandemic future. The world will never be quite the same. Pre-pandemic, wearing masks was limited to medical personnel, some with compromised immune systems, and people newly arrived from China or Japan where wearing masks has been common for many years now.
Now that vaccines are available and the world-population is divided into those who are vaccinated and those who are not, will is form a major divide within our society? Since easing up restrictions, hatred and violence have been on the rise. I that increase associated with the frustrations of handling life with the pandemic? Will that eventually calm down, or will it become a common part of daily life? Will I always be anxious about flying? What hoops will we have to jump through to resume international travel? How can I make visiting my ailing parents in Israel work? When will I be able to travel internationally without the threat of qsuarantine?
And those all too ripe bananas… When will I feel comfortable going into a grocery store rather than order groceries online? I like my bananas just so, not too ripe but not too green. When I choose them for myself it’s not an issue, but when a shopper picks them for me, there are no guarantees. In fact, some of them have been gag-worthy.
How much will the world change?
I’m sure that some point soon, I will feel comfortable grocery shopping. I try to tell myself that I will be able to visit my parents in the foreseeable future. I hope that the hatred will wane, that it isn’t symptomatic of the beginning of the breakdown of society.
I’d rather be hopeful. I hope that as a society we have learned something from this pandemic. I hope there a better world in our future, that it isn’t the beginning of the end, that it is, in fact, the beginning of a new beginning, a second chance for humanity. I have to believe that overall, in the grand scheme of things, life is good, that we haven’t lost the ability to retain our humanity.
I have to believe that we are headed for a better world, one where I won’t be subjected to yellow bananas strewn with black spots.