Behind the mask

5 May

Everybody in Whole Foods, the nearest grocery store to my house, wore a mask. Most wore gloves. That day, I was only wearing one glove because, when I got there, I discovered I must have dropped one between my front door and the store.

I had my list and wandered purposefully, paying attention to the yellow markers on the floor that helped shoppers understand the concept of six feet. It was a short list, mostly fresh items, and before long, I was in the checkout line. Here, too, there were yellow lines. Display shelves had been moved to help funnel people the most socially distant direction.

As I waited in line I watched the two clerks. One was still checking someone’s groceries, the other finished up and then cleaned. She sprayed they belt as it ran, wiped down the card reader, sprayed and wiped the counter, before wiping down the counter. Then, she made eye contact with me.

I walked over, smiling. That’s when it hit me, she couldn’t see my smile. And yet, I knew she was smiling because I noticed the crinkle around her eyes. We are going to have to start learning to read new social cues,  I thought as I unloaded my groceries.

Screen Shot 2020-05-04 at 2.54.41 PM

I contemplated this as I walked home. There weren’t many people on the sidewalks, but I veered into the street as I neared people. I didn’t look for social cues about who should step out of the way. I have always had a big personal space bubble. My idea of six feet is really more like thirty.

As I mounted the stairs to home, I found the missing glove. I threw it into the washing machine along with its mate and the face mask.

 

8 Responses to “Behind the mask”

  1. Joanne Toft May 5, 2020 at 7:26 am #

    oh the details of shopping now. It sounds so much like my last trip. My how things have changed. I also have found myself smiling behind the mask hoping that the people see the eyes can show the smile. Lots of thank yous are being used as well. Be safe and well!

  2. arjeha May 5, 2020 at 7:27 am #

    Our store does the same thing with wiping down the belt and card reader between customers. I agree that we are becoming better at reading non verbal cues as to how people are feeling and what they are thinking. I must admit that it feels funny coming home from the store, throwing everything in the wash, and taking a shower before resuming the day.

    • Adrienne May 5, 2020 at 7:41 am #

      I sometimes wonder how we will ever go back to they way things used to be. When will we feel safe enough?

      • jumpofffindwings May 5, 2020 at 8:00 am #

        I absolutely echo this! I’m hoping for real, visible smiles sometime soon, but maybe shopping less frequently and prioritizing could remain?

  3. jaclynfre May 5, 2020 at 8:12 am #

    Not sure if you are a member of your local Nextdoor app, but we have been in a LONG thread about our local grocery store not taking the necessary precautions so . . . go WF!

  4. dcwlor@gmail.com May 5, 2020 at 11:10 am #

    Sean went to Market of Choice on Sunday – everyone was wearing a mask.

    He also went to Fisherman’s Marine and only one other person was wearing a mask!

    Different cultures, even between West Linn and Oregon City.

    Diane

  5. Lisa Corbett May 5, 2020 at 7:13 pm #

    Masks are not common here. I’m finding I, look you, am looking more people in the eye. It’s easy to get focused on my shopping and forget to stay away from people. I’m always in a hurray! I too am always wondering how many of these new routines will become our new habits.

  6. Writing to Learn, Learning to Write May 6, 2020 at 4:03 am #

    It’s a strange new reality. I do think I can tell when people are smiling by looking at their eyes.

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