It was in the grocery store this past weekend that I found myself having an out of body experience. It wasn't any sort of spiritual epiphany, just your garden variety realization that I was standing in a grocery store with dozens of other humans all in pursuit of meals for and supplies for the coming days. And we were all wearing masks. I was aware of the rather packed nature of the shopping experience, and how the six foot separation between shoppers ebbed and flowed. Pushing a loaded cart down the aisles gave me the impression that I had at least that much room, but was also keenly aware of those passing by me on the side. Never close enough to brush shoulders or bump into one another, but I flinched just a bit each time it happened.
Everyone in my family is now thoroughly vaccinated, but we continue to operate on the assumption that everyone else is not. Our social bubbles have expanded to include a few more individuals as we track those who have received injections and those who have not. Discussions of reactions, especially to that dreaded "second shot" are now as much a part of the daily discourse as the dinner menu. There is very little about this virus that could be considered "novel" anymore.
I led a private cheer for California when the news came down that we had slipped below Hawaii in case rates for the disease. All this attention to conducting daily life in careful and predictable ways seems to have paid off. California spent some time on the opposite end of that spectrum, so this will be good news. Kids are returning to school. A limited number of fans are being allowed in to cheer the Oakland A's and the Golden State Warriors. Restaurants are opening up.
Disneyland is opening up.
And yet, there I was, standing in the middle of the grocery store hyperaware of my surroundings. Ever vigilant to the space between myself and others, with an eye out for a bare nose or open mouth. Not for the first time, I had an urge to pull my own mask off and take a deep breath. Probably not the last either. I didn't do it. Because I want everyone to be better, and even though in the back of my mind I imagine that I can now make my maskless way through throngs of people, the conditioning has been done. I have developed a new nervous habit of tugging my mask up to my glasses any time I feel a breeze below the bridge of my nose.
It is what we do.
And while across the globe different countries and communities deal with the global pandemic in the way they see fit, I am proud of the way we have conducted ourselves. This past year has meant sacrifices both ridiculous and severe. We have avoided the respirators and the intensive care wards. Someone asked if I thought that I might be wearing a mask a year from now. Upon reflection, and noting that this is the first year I can recall going without a bout of the flu or some respiratory infection, I figure this might become a habit. One I can live with.