The new normal.
Will it ever be normal?
It’s anything but normal.
I hope it’s not here to stay, this new normal.
I don a mask and armed with my grocery list, I march into Publix. I double and triple check to make sure I am using the appropriate door and then I wait for a cart, while it is sanitized before my very eyes.
Once inside, I spend the entire time looking to see if I’m headed the right way down the one-way aisles. Am I following the rules correctly? (There are so many rules now.) I rarely look up.
I hold up each item, trying to survey it despite the homemade mask obscuring part of the view. I feel it: the mask. I see it in my peripheral. It’s hot. It’s distracting. I can’t focus.
Feeling simultaneously self-conscious and judgmental toward those not staying six feet back or wearing a mask, I make my way to the checkout. I chat, as best I can, with the cashier. But that, too, takes more concentration than usual because we’re both wearing masks and a plexiglass shield stands between us.
And then, once I load up my groceries, there’s an entire hand sanitizer routine that follows. (If I’m being honest, the hand sanitizer routine was part of the norm before COVID-19 made it the popular thing to do.)
This simple trip to the store is anything but simple. It’s a trip I look forward to all week and, simultaneously, dread. All this togetherness time at home is draining and I jump at the chance to escape. But then I have to go out — because all these people occupying my home need to eat — and I’m exhausted at the very thought. It’s the pandemic paradox. One grocery trip out and I’m ready to spend another week in quarantine. Who would’ve thought?
Emboldened, I did make another quick stop at Trader Joe’s. I stood outside on my X, enjoying the nice weather and trying to smile with my eyes at the others waiting near me.
Again I say: It’s not normal. It’s just weird.
I wonder what parts of our new normal are here to stay and what will be abandoned when the threat of COVID-19 lessens. The thing I most look forward to going away is the masks. I miss seeing the smiles of strangers and familiar faces.