Six feet, it turns out, can be a difficult space to maintain. It's pretty tiny compared to the one hundred feet required by California to keep flammable vegetation and debris away from your home to keep your home safe and protect the firefighters who may have to come between your house and the grass, trees and shrubs in order to save it. And yet I have on several occasions had to point out the dots on the ground, carefully placed in advance of parents coming to school for the purpose of picking up books, supplies and advice for their children who are waiting in the car. Which happens to be a very safe distance.
Crowds tend not to be a good place to take this social experiment. Which makes the events of the past year all the more curious. For my family and I, the closing of our local movie palace was the first place that we felt it. That communal sense of popcorn and big screen entertainment is a memory that keeps popping up in connection with our living room, and the comparison suffers. Tickets we purchase long in advance for shows that were postponed remain valid for some future date, but have become largely forgotten. The cut made by closing Disneyland went even deeper as my son surrendered dreams of being among the first to experience the Rise of the Resistance disappeared like so much pixie dust.
Resistance. That was the other piece, wasn't it? Just as the emperor of doubt and fear rallied his followers into maskless super-spreader events to feed his fragile ego, the rest of us tried to stick to that defensible space. Then events taunted and dared us not to take the streets. George Floyd's death became all the more real to a nation locked inside with a television, watching those eight minutes and forty-six seconds over and over. Until protest was the only way to exorcise some of those demons. The pictures of clashing ideals could often be easily defined by the masks or their defiant lack thereof. We were told that singing in church was a surefire way to spread the virus, but there we were screaming at one another across barricades wanting to have our voices heard.
Meanwhile, back at home, my wife and I were flinching anytime we saw a crowd of people gathered in movies made thirty years ago or more. It crushed the spirit of my gala-prone mate not to have gatherings to attend and parties to plan. Still we watched the throngs pressing in on the Capitol and started the countdown in the same way we did way back when all those motorcycle enthusiasts descended on Sturgis back in August. We avoided travel during the holidays, only to watch cases spike as a result of others priorities: patience and planning versus gratification and that taste of mom's pumpkin pie. Which for some may have been the last thing they tasted. For a while, anyway.
The pandemic is not over, even if our patience for it has long since evaporated. My wife often opines about the term "social distance," feeling that six feet is much to far to do any actual socializing. It may not be my place, but perhaps I should point out that six feet is also one of the dimensions of your standard grave.
Wash your hands. Wear a mask. And give everyone defensible space.