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The joy of shopping with a mask

Phase one rocket is a go. Did you feel the lift-off? I never realized prior to restrictions how a large piece of the joy in shopping and dining out is not having to think too hard in the moment.

I mean, when I do wander back into a favorite restaurant or boutique, will my first thought be, “Is my mask on straight?” or “Can I pick up stuff? How far down this aisle can I roam without drifting into private territory?”

It happens at the grocery store. If I aim the cart toward, oh, say, peanut butter, and some masked person turns at the same time, they make with a quick veer toward the refried beans — a blatant public dodge.

I smile but they don’t know. Will we be able to enjoy the renewed experience if we can’t see our server smile? I think so, once we relax. We may notice people’s eyes and learn to read what’s behind them. I know for some intimate shops the spacing issue will be a challenge. There remain take-out options and shopping by appointment in some stores. Appointment shopping seems luxurious, regal even, akin to spa pampering. Might I bring Fifi?

I’ve heard and heeded warnings and seen the ill effects of this latest in a line of plagues. I imagine scary possibilities and want them vanquished, relegated to memory, like toilet paper shortages, where we shake our heads and tell future generations about the crazy things that happened.

For now I show the germ and my fellow humans respect by giving it room, showing it the door, and not living in fear. Common sense wins. For a time, it will require a certain duplicitous lifestyle — learning to enjoy former activities we took for granted and being more aware. We are not as footloose, for now. But we can dance in place.

As our beloved small businesses reopen their doors, let’s take a look from the other side of the counter. Proprietors are eager to welcome new patrons and old regulars, while desperately needing our business, but the last thing they want is to be the source of an outbreak. We need to take on an extra layer of patience before we walk through the door.

We may have to — dare I say it? — wait. We are not used to that here. I’m the absolute worst when it comes to waiting, I’ll just confess it now. After about two and a half minutes I start searching the land for someone to rescue me from my fate. If another two minutes crawl past, I’m giving the “look.” Like, I don’t hide my emotions well.

I’m sorry. I’ve prayed for help with this one, but you know, I just keep finding myself in situations that require practicing it. So, I’m going to do my best at loving on the servers and business people because they are excited and nervous.

In restaurants, things will look different. Tables will be spaced farther apart. There will sometimes be no condiments on the table, and menus will be disposable. Servers will be masked. They will be wiping down handles and other points of contact more often. It’s a tender cooperation. Let’s please not descend on our favorite places in droves. If we see a place is too busy, maybe move on to an alternative, or wait outside.

There’s a lovely foxglove thriving outside my work window. I almost grubbed it out for a weed. I’m glad I didn’t. It could kill me, but it’s quite beautiful with spires of magenta-colored trumpet blooms. I would have to consume or possibly handle it with bare hands to suffer ill effects. Had I remained ignorant of the poisonous aspect, I still wouldn’t have chosen to eat it. But knowing the potential, the plant has earned a measure of healthy respect, and I don’t view it quite the same.

Our eyes have been opened. Let’s wade in slowly. Please, no belly flops right off.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.