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Virus Without Borders: Chapter 86

(Someone) grant me the serenity...in the days, weeks & months ahead.


      Supermarket Encounters


Gun ownership is more common among men than women, and white men are particularly likely to be gun owners. Among those who live in rural areas, 46% say they are gun owners, compared with 28% of those who live in the suburbs and 19% in urban areas. There are also significant differences across parties, with Republican and Republican-leaning independents more than twice as likely as Democrats and those who lean Democratic to say they own a gun (44% vs. 20%).  PEW RESEARCH CENTER



My husband, Jim, does not want me to get shot, wounded, or killed. He implores me not to confront a person, usually a white male, who is not wearing a mask. I usually say something to such a belligerent white male when I am shopping solo, even though I know it is a  grave risk. I cannot stop myself; I am incensed. "No mask for you, sir?" I said the other day to someone as I was waiting to be served at a small market on Rte. 32 that is always open, no matter the weather or holiday, a real convenient convenience store. This guy had his mask in his hand. "I have a mask," he said, waving it. "It's in the wrong place," I said.


That was it. He came closer, waved it at me, threw a five-dollar bill on the counter and stomped away. "Give the lady the change," he said.


My tip for speaking truth to his so-called power.


I can hardly believe the machismo I have encountered these past difficult months, more so since the Covid numbers have surged again. Women can be macho, too, of course, defiant, or just plain ignorant. The woman running the laundromat was mask-less during my last visit. I have chatted to her, know her name, and that made a difference, but she was annoyed with me. "Okay, I'll go get my mask," she said. "I'll comply."


"Thank you," I said. "It's for your own good, too."


Two days later I was down with Covid. Now I wonder if I got it from her, or gave it to her.  


I do not confess about a confrontation when I get home though I am often shaken. I do not want my husband to worry about me.  I sit down at the computer, answer emails, write, and try to calm down. I call up the research about gun ownership in rural areas such as ours and read it over and over again hoping it will sink in.


Yesterday's encounter was particularly dangerous, not only for myself, but for my husband. I know he would intercede to protect me, if necessary, thereby endangering himself and maybe some bystanders. We were at Tops, a football field sized supermarket in the New Paltz mall. The mask mandate sign is posted on the entrance doors and most people are masked. Then there's the one who isn't, or the one who lets the thin surgical mask slip under his nose.


We'd just recovered  from a ten-day isolation, and were enjoying our supermarket play date. Jim was riveted on all the meat while I was in the organic aisle getting some frozen blueberries.  When I returned to join him, a young man was standing at his shoulder, his mask under his nose. Even though we may now have more immunity, I got crazy. Without hesitation, I shouted to the young man to put up his mask, and though I had no expectation, I had no common sense, either. I had walked right into danger as I often do. I think it has something to do with being the child of Holocaust survivors. In another life, I could have been a relief worker, I know that.


The guy got angry almost immediately. I thought he was going to hit me, so I backed away. I had pushed his button and he started to rant. Instead of going to get the manager, who I knew was a young woman, a student, and putting her in danger, I took him on. It wasn't a decision; it was a reflex; I was protecting my husband and everyone else in harm's way. That's the way I think the reflex works; I gear up into rescue mode.


I backed away as he took out his phone. He wanted to show me a video, he said. Only then, did I pretend to ignore him. He was almost dancing now, shoving the phone towards me,  "You see," he said. "Masks don't help."


How could anyone sane and informed even answer that. I didn't. "Thank you," I mumbled, "I appreciate that," I said. He finally walked away. I was relieved; a video is not a gun.


But my husband wasn't happy with me, and I wasn't happy with myself. I promised I'd write a blog about safety protocols as we continue to encounter defiant and belligerent citizens. The reality is that we'll be wearing masks for a long time, maybe even forever.


Dear Reader, I'd like to hear how you handle such encounters and if you have any suggestions.  


#maskup #staysafe #walkawayfromguns #resistopencarry #reformgunlaws #walkawayfromrage  


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Virus Without Borders: Chapter Twenty-One

"Daisy Bell," with its line about a bicycle built for two, inspired by Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick, one of the many mistresses of King Edward VII. Sung by Edward M. Favor and recorded by the Edison Phonograph Company on brown wax cylinder in 1894 can be heard on Wikipedia.

Let's Party



Better to love your country with a broken heart than to love it blind.


Roger Cohen, NY Times 5/22/2020




It was a cool, early summer Sunday and we'd decided to search out a solitary fishing hole, not for me, I don't fish, but I was going along for the fresh air, change of scene, and mountain vista. We were loading the car, masks on, as the cars in the lot are in close proximity and some of our neighbors have started to party, exiting their apartments without masks, blasting video games and music, and drinking lots and lots of beer, the re-cycling bins filled to overflowing. Not everyone living in this apartment complex is young or careless, or young and careless, but the few who are make me nervous. The strict, albeit unenforceable lockdown protocols worked for a while, but now have loosened throughout the town, I'd say, as we entered Phase 2 re-opening this week. For those of us in the "vulnerable" population, it's an even more dangerous time. Not fun at all.


I felt them behind me as I was loading the trunk, my husband already in the car, two unmasked well-dressed athletic bikers on a golden bicycle-built- for-two tandem bike. On a normal Sunday I would have chit-chatted about where they were from, where they were going, and asked what it was like to ride a tandem bike.


They were lost, looking for Ohioville Rd. They were far from Ohioville Rd. and it would require some explanation. I asked them to back away, give me some space, but they were unsteady, falling over, and laughing so hard they couldn't pay attention to physical distancing. I backed away and tightened my mask, but not fast enough, I told my husband later. I was skittish even though I knew that the breeze off the ridge and my mask was protective. It was the attitude that got to me. These were visitors from another world—young people having fun on an early summer Sunday—and it's not my world anymore, and not just because of the generational divide, though that is even more significant these days. The reminder of our vulnerability and their youthful entitlement made me angry and resentful. But I remained polite and gave them very specific directions—out to Main St., hang a right, then straight down Rte. 299.  Then I got parental and told them it was a busy road, they should be careful, and praised them for wearing helmets. So many conflicting emotions in that short encounter. It was a relief to get into the car, our safe isolation chamber, and to drive and drive and drive. We left the town behind, and we left the party behind. Governor Cuomo had already warned us: if the transmission numbers go up, we shut down again. There have already been 25,000 complaints of violations of re-opening protocols, particularly by restaurants. Indeed, with that amount of reported violations, how can re-opening be sustainable until we have a vaccine.


We are giddy with the prospect of restored freedoms. We cannot help ourselves, it is in our nature to move freely, to embrace our loved ones and, in these United States, to continually question authority and renew ourselves with fresh experiences. If we are young and eager and energetic, the containment of freedom must feel painful. Admonitions to protect elders and those with underlying conditions, to even protect one another—the virus can be deadly to young people and children, too—don't work forever, it seems. I'm at a loss about what to do or say to those that challenge the rules in my presence other than: please, give us some space, wear a mask, the pandemic is not over.



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