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Pandemic Pandemonium, Paranoia, and Politeness

I hope we will aspire to become, once again, friendly Americans and I hope we will give one another the benefit of the doubt.

Whenever a shift in society or culture occurs, folks don’t have a paradigm to follow and find adoption of a new normal challenging. The year of 2020 isn’t the first year that our country has had to adjust to unsettling events, but it may be the first time for many of us, including the over-75 crowd, to have to learn new, uncomfortable ways of coping.

I see neighbors walking their dogs with masks on, all by themselves en plein air. One lady, nearby, who’s deathly afraid of the virus made her lawn guys wear booties to mow her lawn. The same woman sanitized everything early on and even put her six-pack of Coke into her dishwasher, where it later exploded; she thought she was under attack! Last May, I witnessed two women on the beach scurry to relocate their huge sun umbrella and chaise-longue chairs to another section because someone laid down beach towels within 12 feet of them.

On the other hand, I’ve also seen mask-less twenty-somethings drink beer and laugh and yell when they were nose-to-nose in the parking lot of a restaurant on the coast, without a worry in the world about spreading germs. I’ve seen folks in grocery stores pull down their masks to sneeze. And I’ve noticed young teen servers at drive-thru fast-food restaurants roll down the window to take your order while wearing their masks around their necks, like scarves, as they shout the order to the kitchen.

It’s hard to know when to say something. Do you correct a stranger and risk angering the person or embarrassing the fellow or gal? Isn’t it also true some folks are so paranoid that they do unscientifically based protocols while thinking themselves completely justified denying someone entry? My pregnant daughter and her husband took their barely two-year-old to a museum in Detroit where they weren’t allowed entry because the toddler didn’t sport a mask. When my son-in-law, a surgeon, explained that masks weren’t required for children so young, the cashier wouldn’t budge on the mandate. He asked for his money back. So, they rode a couple of hours home and didn’t see the museum. Sometimes, people don’t know the rules and have no common sense.

That gets me to manners. A couple in our neighborhood had a going-away party for an elderly couple who was going to move to an assisted living arrangement. They invited folks in the small cul-de-sac and a few others and held the get-together outside in their ample driveway. Everyone brought their own beverages and snacks. Everyone wore a mask and only lowered it to sip a little wine or whatever they’d brought. No sharing. Nothing communal. Well, the community curmudgeon showed up later although his wife had already been there mingling for a while. When he strode into the driveway, he saw a lady with her mask lowered as she sipped and snacked and talked with me. This fellow is no favorite of ours, and when he soon departed after just arriving late, we didn’t think too much of it until our host bounded over and told us that “Bernie” left swiftly because “Karen” didn’t have her mask covering her face! “But he never came near us! And we’re not sick anyway,” I said.

No matter. That geezer wanted to make a point. Drama queen. What I thought a bit ironic was he left his wife there socializing with everyone. Wasn’t he afraid she’d catch something from the unmasked nibbler and carry it home to him?

There have been a lot of casualties from the fallout of this virus besides the obvious health ones. Of course, loss of income, loss of education, loss of entertainment come to mind. The list goes on. So, it might seem like flotsam and jettison to even mention the loss of manners. But I’ve noticed this disagreeableness that plagues society nowadays. Everyone is afraid to greet anyone with a verbal salutation because of spreading germs, but they also seem reluctant to throw up a hand in a friendly wave or nod the head to acknowledge a passerby. Rude behavior seems to be a la mode, today. It’s accepted and a bit encouraged. Fear will do that to folks.

So, I think that perhaps when things resume and vaccinations are plentiful and taken, I hope we will aspire to become, once again, friendly Americans, less judgmental and more tolerant, and I hope we will give one another the benefit of the doubt. And if we are afraid to speak to strangers then let’s hope Netflix starts programs in sign language where the first expressions we learn are: Hello, Please, Thank you, and God Bless.

These seeds of kindness we need to plant now!


  1. I’m one week past my 2nd dose of vaccine. After two or three more weeks, I see no reason to don the mask (unless private businesses insist.) Outdoors in the open…. People, use your common sense! Yes, I’m getting cranky about it! Great essay, Erika. Thanks for your observations.

  2. Extremely well written with a sense of seriousness and with your subtle humor incorporated in your article here and there!
    Most Americans can identify with your examples over the last year! Your ending was spot on! You definitely have a way with words and getting your points across! Loved this!

  3. I agree. It pains me that people can’t see me smile at them under my mask. For the first time, I am thankful for the wrinkles around my eyes that crinkle up in an eye smile. Hard to see, but there if you’re looking! Kindness—a good seed to plant.

  4. Thanks Erika,
    Spot on. Written like a true Taffie! We sometimes forget the “human” in humane. Of course those who lacked manners before COVID will be difficult to “re-educate.” I suggest making copies of this article and leaving with a candy heart in a mailbox or chair —🥰

  5. Enjoyed this! Erika’s article certainly identified the highs and lows of our present society. Hoping one day soon we’ll be able to leave our homes mask-less, and yes, that we have a reason to wear lipstick once again (all the better to smile at others, my dear!)

  6. You always make such good points with excellent prose, Erika. Amen to more kindness and friendliness. Your idea to get Netflix involved could help!

  7. A spot on commentary for today’s situation. Hope we can get back to being those friendly polite people. Thank you for putting this in perspective!

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