About a year ago, I was in the organic grocery store Biocoop when a frail woman passed by wearing a surgical mask. This was well before COVID-19, at a time when seeing someone with a mask at a supermarket was unusual. A young child with his mother spotted the masked woman, pointed, and loudly asked his mom an innocent question, “Why is that woman wearing a mask? It’s scary.” Embarrassed, the mom swatted his hand down, smiled politely at the woman, and calmly explained to the child that the woman was wearing the mask for health reasons and it was nothing to fear.
But wow, how times have changed…
Up until earlier this year, masks were commonplace mainly for doctors and dentists seeing patients and performing surgery, Asian tourists in airports, and immunocompromised people going about their daily lives. Now, it’s the people NOT wearing masks in the supermarket that get the strange looks. Just yesterday, a young girl asked her mom why a man over by the eggs wasn’t wearing a mask and my mind flashed back to the Biocoop child asking the exact opposite just a year ago. I chuckled under my mask.
As of July 20, France has made it a requirement to wear a mask in all indoor public places such as stores, the post office, pharmacies, banks, etc. Certain areas experiencing outbreaks such as the Mayenne, have gone a step further and have made masks a requirement even out on the street as well. Yet large private gatherings such as weddings are still permitted. That doesn’t make sense to me.
As I write this, a second wave is expected in France and cases hit a two-month high this week.
What we view as normal takes so much into account — our culture, our health, our beliefs, the current state of the world, and so much more. What’s normal to me may not be normal to you. But I think we can all agree nothing about the current state of the world is normal although every day that passes makes it seem that way.
If someone plopped me into today out of nowhere with no context, I guess I could believe this reality is normal if I knew nothing else. But we know what life was like before. Watching the pandemic take hold of everyone’s lives little by little over the past couple of months is so far removed from normal that I don’t know whether to scream, cry, or laugh.
Like you, personal travel plans have been put on hold. My parents won’t be coming next month. It’s non-essential and there are far more serious things we’re dealing with than vacation but still. It stings to know that something you were looking forward to has been cancelled with no timeline for rescheduling. So much is up in the air and unknown.
Like you, people close to me have gotten sick. My grandma died and I watched her funeral via a live stream. Luckily, Tom, Dagny, and I have remained healthy.
Like you, I wonder when everything will regain a sense of normalcy. If ever. It has to, right? I worry about the US election. I worry about race relations and how divisive the USA is now. I worry about when I’ll see my family again. I worry about people losing their jobs, their health insurance, and then their homes.
Like you, I just want us all to be able to live again.
What we used to take for granted is now just a memory we’ve tucked away for good keeping. I hope we can dust it off again one day soon. Until then, I’ll be masking up and awaiting a day in the future when a child finds it strange that a woman in a grocery store is wearing a mask and innocently asks his mother why. I look forward to chuckling out of pure joy for all to see.
How are you holding up? What are you most looking forward to after the coronavirus pandemic?
Want more? Check out this post on how masks affect language comprehension