Stop and smell the flowers.

Well, it’s May 29th. And the only reason I know that is because two days ago it was my step-father’s birthday. Finally, there was something to really celebrate. While we couldn’t eat cake or have a delicious meal in person, it gave me an excuse to get out of the house (with a mask, of course), and pick out a funny card. One of my favorite things to do is wander the greeting card aisle. As a stationery designer, these artistic creations are inspirational. With clever taglines and gorgeous illustrations, a greeting card is the one thing that never fails to comfort.

Here in Central Florida, restaurants are open for inside dining; local retail shops are filled with customers; even theme parks (July 11th for all my Disney fans!) are coming to life. Amidst this late April excitement, I went to restock at retail stores. It was the most anxiety-inducing experience I have had in awhile.

People were not wearing masks. They were sitting together on public benches along the main street. Large groups were eating together at restaurants that did not seem to be following social distancing recommendations. I was so worried, weaving in and out of the often oblivious crowd, that I dropped all of my stuff on the ground. There I was, stuck in the middle of the sidewalk, frantically picking up everything while people went about their lives around me.

I had hoped to be able to leave the house regularly in May. But the moment the Central Florida quarantine was relaxed, the masks were tucked away in their closets, never to be seen again. Six feet apart? Unlikely. And restricted entry to retails? Not even close.

I know I shouldn’t be complaining. My family in California and Connecticut is still locked in quarantine life, barely able to get out for curbside pickup or a walk down a hiking trail. But in many ways, the phased reopening has increased my anxiety, not eased it.

Look, I love the way the local community has come out. People are back to buying from a favorite neighborhood shop or eating at a favorite restaurant. I know these local businesses are relieved they can resume operations. But all I ask is for people to WEAR A MASK. Please. I know it’s uncomfortable. I know it’s claustrophobic, especially in the Florida humidity, but it’s a small price to pay to be safe. A mask won’t prevent you from getting sick. But I’ve heard it recommended again and again by medical doctors, epidemiologists, and microbiologists as the best way to stop others from becoming sick.

I also realized something while thinking about masks. We all have our ways of dealing with this pandemic. Some people have embraced the newly opened economy and society. Others remain firmly inside. If we all wore masks in public, maybe more and more people in other states could be outside of their house.

I have even gone out more and more. I went to Target and actually walked down the aisles. Then Joann’s Fabrics to get elastic. I even went back to those stores that sell my products to restock, on a day it was raining so nobody was around (WEARING A MASK! I cannot emphasize this enough – WEAR A MASK!)

I even am looking forward to dining out. But I plan to be extremely careful: looking at the data; choosing a place that has strong safety procedures and isn’t crowded. We’ll see. I have made my own “going out phase schedule”, going at my own pace, while abiding by vital rules.

Until then, I cannot tell you how healing it is to Zoom with friends and family. Normally, we are so busy with our lives we barely text or call every couple of weeks. But now we have nearly weekly chats, usually during cocktail hour. How funny is it that the “Zoom Cocktail Party” is the new norm? We talk about our newfound podcasts (Pop Culture Happy Hour!) and Netflix queues (totally binged season 1 of Locke & Key!), what we’re eating, and what we’re struggling with. I hope the therapeutic sessions continue even after this is all over.

My hope is to continue to try and be kind to my neighbors, friends, family, and always be here to help. Thanks for reading. I know this isn’t my normal dog lovers’ post, but in the midst of all this chaos, sometimes venting is necessary.

WEAR. A. MASK.

1 Comment

  1. peggy johnson Reply

    As a retired microbiologist, I couldn’t agree any more with your recommendation for people to wear masks! It’s such a simple, inexpensive thing to do that will save lives.

    Things aren’t much better even here in Seattle where things are mostly closed, and where there are still plenty of new COVID-19 cases popping up every day. I see only about half the population wearing masks when I go out for a daily bike ride. And that’s on a good day! Other days, it might be 20% of the people.

    How did wearing a mask become a political statement anyway???

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