The controversy over the wearing of masks has been one of those spots for me. I don’t care much… if it helps stop the spread of the virus, then wearing one is inconvenient and uncomfortable, but no big deal.
You also have to understand that I would like to have a shroud of darkness covering me when I depart the house and if communication is necessary, I wish gestures were sufficient. I’m entirely self contained and have no desire to connect with the mass of humanity. It is a testimony to the humor of God that I have always been employed in the service of the public and made my mark in life on social media.
I keep a few dear people and lots of animals close and wall off the rest…I do not have the gifts either of evangelism or hospitality. When I pass, I will be the patron saint of introverts and grouches, probably under two different names and iconically masked.
Therefore, I go out only when I have to.
I have had two of those occasions this week.
On Tuesday, I had to get my second vaccination shot. I had to drive to the clinic, get in line, get my shot and then go sit in the holding area until it was determined that I would not immediately collapse from anaphylaxis. If I could survive the fifteen minutes, I could leave.
Because of the masks, separation, and silence, it felt more like a mass veterinary procedure…get the cattle lined up, shot up, and out of here.
That was ok with me.
What I had not anticipated was that I was about to become the center of attention in the waiting room.
I was sporting my brand new pair of Minnesota Viking themed Nike’s. These are my pride and joy as they represent finally being able to afford to buy a pair of shoes and they were an expression of that tiny, shrunken place in my soul that needs “fun”.
They are striking (purple!) and people were staring.
They kept staring…until one guy could take it no more.
“Those are damn fine shoes”.
He opened a floodgate of comments and affirmations about my shoes…while I was making the mental note to only wear them in my house from now on.
The comments followed me out to my car as those leaving with me spoke as well.
it wasn’t about the shoes.
It was about connecting together as a faceless group deprived of personhood and community by the pandemic.
My shoes were a tool and an outlet to remember who we were.
The second occasion was more somber.
I took my car down to get fixed at the local tire shop. I was lucky to get an appointment… blessed actually, because the fires last year burned down the other shops in town and the place is booked out for weeks.
I always go here anyway. They are scrupulously honest and kind and never make fun of the fact that the only thing I know about cars is how to drive them and then only if they’re automatics.
As I sat in the waiting area, I sensed something was different, something more than the fact that I could no longer access a coffee machine because of Covid19 restrictions.
It was quieter then I remembered… hushed.
I also noted that someone was missing…the owners wife usually was at the back desk…perhaps she had taken a needed day off.
The next customer in line gave me the part I was missing.
“So sorry for your loss, Stan”.
Good Lord, I thought…his wife had died.
I watched him say thank you and his eyes and body expressed the pain he was in.
Over the next hour or so many masked folks tried to express their condolences to a masked man who was trying to survive each reminder of his loss.
There could be no hugs, no sharing beyond a few words recognizing a death that seemed to hit the floor… partially blocked by what was meant to preserve life.
When my car was finished, the owner and I were the only ones in the store.
I took off my mask and told him I was sorry too and thanked him for what they had built together.
He thanked me as he had the others.
We put our masks back on.
I pray for the day when we can take them off for good…even if it leaves me a little exposed.