I Liked the Old Normal

I miss hugs.

It feels strange to go out now. If I have to sneeze (heaven forbid) and I am in a store, even though masked, I feel like a ‘super spreader’ caught in the act. The ‘covid elbow’ is a poor substitute for a handshake, and though we laugh about it, it is weird. Isolating.

Then there are those who want to spew their anger all over those who don’t mask up. Don’t they realize that the masks they are wearing do little to stop the spread of their saliva as they scream obscenities and accusations? I prefer to not go through the exercise of explaining why I don’t want to wear a mask, so now, I jerk one over my face as I enter a store, then jerk it off the moment I leave. It is a reluctant obedience. I gave up.

And that is the problem. A lot of us have given up. And given over.

We wander through our few, but necessary, shopping expeditions like silent wraiths in an apocalypse. I’ve noticed people have begun avoiding each other’s eyes. The friendly hello is fast becoming outdated. Our ‘new normal’ is gaze avoidance, silent meandering, a quick snatch of products needed (lest they not be on the shelf one day) and screening the checkout lines for distancing.

I hate the phrase ‘we are all in this together’. We are not in this together. We are in this APART, i.e. social distancing and Zoom calls. Mandatory masking. Video call apps are becoming wildly creative. Microsoft Teams has a new mode called “Together.” If more than five people are on the call, they look like they are seated in an auditorium side by side, as if everyone is in a classroom. Together. And everyone seems happy about this. It even includes fake high-fiving. This is so creepy I’m having trouble comprehending the consequences. Are we now manufacturing fake togetherness in an effort to make forced isolation more palatable?

It’s not palatable. It’s not healthy. And it won’t last forever.

Friends now look at each other as if they are already infected, and stand a good distance away or raise their hands in protest if one zeroes in for a hug. Can you say…rejection? I know, I know…it’s protection…subliminally, though, that rejection thing is happening. Mandatory quarantining and screening are a given. My dentist takes my temperature when I walk in, makes me swish with hydrogen peroxide for 30 seconds (no less, or they make you do it over) and nearly slathers hand sanitizer all over my upper body. They perform all of this like medical attendants from a Hitchcock movie. Smiling, militant, hard-lipped, steely-eyed. They are focused on the mission. After all ‘we’re all in this together’.

Nope. I’m not all in this at all. I mean, I am…but…in my mind, I’m running as fast as I can for freedom.

The new catchphrases of the dreaded COVID existence:

new normal

mask up!

virtue signaling

flatten the curve

essential business

novel coronavirus

shelter-in-place

stay safe!

social distancing

super-spreader

contact tracing

droplet transmission

PPE (personal protective equipment)

Our communication is peppered with these phrases, now. It is the top conversation on every network, FB, Twitter, Instagram…the entire world, I guess. Still, I refuse to cave. I’ve limited the amount of news I allow into my brain. I’m stunned by the division this ‘pandemic’ has brought, and avoid FB posts that lecture the rest of us apparently misinformed, misguided, uneducated, helpless souls. It now makes me laugh, the sheer condescension of some of the comments aimed at those who rail against imposed restrictions that should not happen.

One thing is certain, a pandemic brings out the best and the worst in people. At least now, it isn’t hidden.

I miss hugs.

I believe they’ll be back.

 

Non-Seafood People Need Love, Too

B448DEC3-5F36-41B4-B555-E67F5A26B1E4I’m really not the best person to tease. In fact, I was teased so badly as a child, that it’s called ‘bullying’ today. The scars are healed, now, but once in a while they flare up, and I fly off the handle a bit. It’s usually due to a repetitive scorn, and after about a trillion times of throwing it in my face, I just…well…here’s the rest of the story.

There is one thing my husband and friends mock and denigrate me about as if I were the queen of fools. Quite honestly, I’m sick of it. I have driven a stake in the ground. (Umm…sand, actually. We live on an island.)

I’m saying no.

I will absolutely not, ever again, eat seafood in any form. Not clams. Not oysters. Not shallots. Not grouper. Not redfish. Not…well, I can’t remember names of seafood, but believe me, folks have all but forked bites of it into my mouth in an effort to show me how wonderful it is. Do they not think I’ve tried several times? Do they think that I outright lie when I say I don’t like it? It’s a mystery. One of my good friends even told me to stop saying I hated seafood  because I wouldn’t be considered a local (insert eyeroll here). Seems to me people that love me would know this about me and LEAVE ME ALONE ABOUT IT.

Sigh.

Why do people feel they have an obligation, nay…a holy DUTY…to recruit non-seafood people into the seafood-lover militia? I will be the token anomaly. It’s okay. Locals can point to me and whisper, “that’s our last holdout, but we still have hope” all they want to, but there is no hope. And I reject all manner of putting stuff in my mouth that is even slightly fishy. I have the right to refuse, don’t I? Isn’t that the American way? I especially reject crustraceans that wander the ocean scooping up all manner of fish poop into their little clampy mouths and then arrive on a restaurant table artfully displayed for $500. Yuk on several levels.

Look, seafood people – we non-seafood people should make you even more proud of your lofty seafood vocabulary and discussion of culinary literacy regarding lobster, crab, dauphin, (is that a fish?) or whatever. You know something we don’t. (We don’t really want to know, but hey, we will listen with rapt attention and respect your right to know. We can still get along.)

Speaking of crustaceans, the worst of the worst happened a couple of weeks ago.

My husband and I are semi-retired, and he is looking for hobbies and fun stuff to do as he feverishly awaits full retirement. When we moved across the street from a lake, I took a very deep breath when he took up fishing.

With all his heart.

I mean…the man seeks out every neighbor and pulls information and help from them like a dentist pulls teeth. He is merciless. So now we have not one, not two, but THREE stinkin’ fishing poles in the garage PLUS a filet knife, line, tackle, and all the other fishy accoutrement. Trust me when I say I hate the smell of fish more than the taste of it and this man knew it when we got married. Did that deter him?

Of course not.

But we have agreed on boundaries. He can’t bring the fish in the house unless its fileted and on its way to the freezer. Don’t get me started on the rotting bait he ‘just happens’ to throw into the trashcan for our poor trash pickup people to endure. Plus, now we have a racoon problem? Hmmmm.

But I digress. Worse than that, he has started CLAMMING.

OMG.

Now, he has dirty, muddy rubber boots, borrows this little rake-thing from a neighbor and wanders out into the muddy marsh. With a smile on his face, no less. I know now where the phrase ‘happy as a clam’ comes from. These, also, cannot come into the house, and I thank God that we have water faucets all around the perimeter of our home so he can wash the little critters outside. His mud-spackled clothing has to go straight to the laundry, and his mud-spackled body straight to the shower.

When he’s done clamming, he looks like a slightly remorseful- but proud -three-year-old boy fresh from a mud puddle. The other day, in all his mud-bespeckled glory, still wearing the grimy rubber boots, he grabbed his white, plastic bucket of unmwashed, still very much alive clams and strode purposefully toward a neighbor walking her two little purse-dog Pomeranians in the street in front of our house.

I was downright horrified as he marched toward her, bucket held high, little bitty fork-rake thing at his side, in all his clammy glory to show off his catch. Come to think of it, I guess clamming is where the term ‘clammy hands’ comes from.

Eww.

Our neighbor smiled and tried to be polite, but backed away before the dogs leapt into the bucket.

A few days ago, he asked me to come watch while he raked the salt marsh mud for clam treasure, which I did. After all, a wife’s gotta support her man, at least on the surface, right? I don’t have to smell or touch the mud or the clams if I stay a good space away from the entire activity. He bought me black rubber boots for the occasion (why?) and I nicely responded that I’d watch from the bank in a chair, thanks.

With a goodly amount of wine.

So now I’m finding out that there are plenty of clam-lovers and clam-diggers out there. To my horror, once a friend of ours found out my husband had become conversant in all things clam, he promptly invited us over for dinner. He’d make Clams Casino Fettucine.

Guess who provided the clams.

The host generously cooked me chicken instead, but told me later he cooked it in the same sauce as the clams.

Did he have to tell me that? Really?

 

 

Life on Hold

I cannot imagine what California and New York are going through. Enforced isolation. Isn’t that a little like, um, prison? I know, I know…separation slows the virus transmission. However, a little too reminiscent of Venezuela. Cuba. China.

Don’t want to think about it.

But…public beaches are now closed on Hilton Head.

What?

The mayor had already closed all restaurants except for takeout. All public meetings have been canceled, along with school and various and sundry other activites. Gym is closed. Pools are not open. Heritage Golf Classic is postponed.

As long as we had our gorgeous beaches to keep us sane during social distancing and closing off every recreational or social venue available things were fine. We had long lines early in the morning at Publix, Kroger, WalMart and Harris Teeter as we raced down the aisles for food and tp, but basically things were fine. Then the mayor closed our beaches.

What’s next? Golf courses? We have around 24 or so on the Island. It’s the one thing people here – vacationing or otherwise – could do safely and be assured of lots of space around them.

Golf venues will more than likely close as well. Unless a miracle happens. Which, in my mind, is always a possibility.

My house is overly stocked, now, on toilet paper. That this is a thing to celebrate mystifies me. We are also stocked to the gills on meat, bread, milk and peanut butter. Oh, and eggs. Coffee. These are essentials for us. I have two bottles of wine.

I don’t think that’s gonna do it. Must add wine to the list when (and if) I venture forth. Will handshakes be a thing of the past? Gosh, I hope not. I’m an enthusiastic hugger, so if the handshake is out the door, what will happen to hugs? 

Some say this will change life forever, at least in the U.S.

On the up side, one would hope a situation like this would make us more appreciative of daily amenties, public venues, the ability to navigate life freely. Teach us not to live in chronic fear, but hang onto courage and resilience in spite of it. To cling to hope. And there is ALWAYS hope.

One thing is certain. It’s making all of us – no matter political party, race, or affiliation – think about things. Life. Death. The importance of touching another human being. The freedom to buy and eat what we want and not what is being rationed. Toilet paper. (Had to throw that one in there. I’m looking forward to all the memes after this pandemic settles down.) Maybe we are putting down our phones and connecting more with the people we live with. Maybe we are enjoying our own little patch of earth more than usual, since many of us cannot venture outside it. Maybe we’ll learn to be grateful for small, overlooked things like a good conversation or an unexpected ‘I love you’ instead of rushing through life not even noticing. Perhaps we’ll learn to live on less and stop spending money on overpriced and underwhelming extras. Perhaps Democrats and Republicans will put down their swords.

Maybe.

Maybe a lot of good will come from something that looks like, on its face, a catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions.

But still.

Mr. Mayor, did you have to close the beaches? Two whole months?

Sigh.