Pandemic Blues

The young Indigenous man jumped to open the bank door for me even though I was reaching for the button. I said Thanks, he said Welcome, and it was a small feel-good interaction, but I upped it a bit by adding “Nice hair”. His turn to say Thanks and seemed delighted. (Side note – a lot of the Indig. Youth are into helping Elders of whatever persuasion.)

It was a real hair day in the bank. The black teller had a fantastic head of multiple long braids (side note – read an article recently about the unspoken but carefully followed English grammar rule concerning the order of adjectives…I hesitated re “multiple” and “long”), the two Cauc clerks (full staff today, despite the only-4-customers-inside rule & really small bank) had long smooth pale hair. The South Asian woman who dealt with my matter had dark brown hair in the current bed-head style, but with deep golden streaks. Well, I guess with it being winter and all, I haven’t seen all that much hair lately (touque season in Canada), and with masks there aren’t full faces to look at any more…and I haven’t seen much of anything in the way of humankind lately* (thank goodness for TV and mirrors) and revisited my periodic wonder at the strange wild growth on our scalps while we are otherwise mostly bald.

[* Reminds me of the time decades ago when I spent some time in South India, where the people are slender, dark and tilt backwards…and one day I saw this blobby forward-leaning ghostly white guy striding down the street and thought, OMG, that’s what we look like? (photographs from the time of me with locals confirm)]

[Speaking of hair and TV, I think Colbert and Noah look better with longer hair (and casual clothes – I really hate men’s suits); the only other late-nite host I follow, Myers, isn’t sporting noticeably longer hair.]

Recently read an article about how in lock-down days we are suffering not just from being cut off from friends and relatives, but also from all the people we don’t know but share society with and all the attendant mini-interactions (“Excuse me,” “You first,” “Do you know what time it is.”) Now we avoid each other, pull away & turn faces away in the grocery aisles. (But the check-out clerks in this small town still chat as they ring up your stuff…..which, of course, you have to pack yourself in your bags that must not touch the counter – at least I no longer fret about the cat hair on them).

It’s like we should all be going around ringing bells and shouting “Unclean, unclean.”

After the bank I went to the grocery. Encountered Reno Rob in the parking lot. I was hobbling so he offered me his arm. I hesitated for a nano-second, but figured he was safe (grocery was about his only outing, and I’m more concerned with air-transmission…and he was wearing a mask [probably, come to think of it, the same one he got from me months ago when he realized that he wasn’t going to be able to get his groceries otherwise {note to self – next time I see him, press a fresh supply upon him}. Anyway, a nice gesture…and I realized afterwards that that was the first time in many months when I’d touched or been touched by another human being. Used to be my women friends and I exchanged hugs, maybe kisses, upon parting. Now I don’t even see them. One is totally holed up, incommunicado. Another I talk to on the phone occasionally, and another only by brief emails. My oldest-friend-in-town talks by Facebook messenger and we sometimes see each other across the front yard when she’s getting back in the car after leaving me something on the front step (lately it’s often been honey-cream cake; I have been consulting cookbooks for something to follow up on my not-so-recent reciprocity, cider bread). I get ready-made meals delivered – sometimes glimpse the chef/delivery person as she departs.

After outings to grocery, pharmacy or post office (no home delivery here), I often just drive down our few blocks of main street, just to see some world and hopefully denizens thereof. It’s winter, and pandemic, so there aren’t many people to be seen. A couple of oddly-dressed shouters on the corner in front of town hall, some bundled-up miserables on the park benches, some people walking their (sob) dogs (mine are in jars by the door)…a few ‘normal’ pedestrians scurrying back to their cars…

People here seem to be masking and distancing appropriately (even those, and Reno Rob and honey-cake woman are among them, who are doubters), but someone on a Facebook group claimed our provincial Human Rights Commissioner acknowledged the (to me dubious) existence of people with medical claims of exemption. I looked it up, and yes. Then the next little section said maskless people shouldn’t be challenged or asked to provide any proof. WHAT ABOUT OUR RIGHT NOT TO BE EXPOSED I said, in my indignant letter to the Commission. (I got a bedbug letter back, of course.) I think that don’t-ask-don’t-require-to-tell is supposed to refer back to the mythical beings who can’t mask up (or stay the hell home), but it doesn’t say so, and is what to the naked eye appears to be a stand-alone clause. And, with it not being spelled out, people are gonna take advantage. We’re not only funny-looking creatures with weird stuff growing out of our heads, but we’re extremely annoying nitwits.

Hoping you are the same (as a friend of mine long ago used to sign off his essays).

P.S. – Accidentally put mask on wrong-way-up, thus the (EEEK) inverted pentagram…but it may ward off virus. (Good mask, double-layer, slot for filter…)

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