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Something seemed off, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
I ran into 7-11 to get a Mountain Dew watermelon-flavored Slurpee following an acupuncture treatment. The large green and white sign pasted to the window was touting a special price of just $1 for a small. That’s my favorite sized Slurpee. I take too long to finish a 16-oz medium and it usually turns into sugar water. I honestly don’t know how others handle 32-ounces of tiny ice particles infused with high sugar levels. I guess brain freeze affects people differently.
Removing the small cup from the holder, I snapped on the plastic bubble top and maneuvered the container into the proper position under the spout. Of course, like a Slurpee veteran, you always check the little window with the constantly spinning chopper to ensure it displays the proper mix of liquid and ice.
That’s when I realized I wasn’t wearing my mask.
Although my glove compartment is filled with the little blue buggers, I absentmindedly exited my vehicle without one. I wasn’t trying to make a political statement. I just forgot.
Until recently, when approaching any business without my mask, I would immediately return to my car to grab one, cursing silently all the way there. Usually, the sign on the door is enough to jog my memory, but not this time. I just casually strode inside without a care in the world, like it was 2019 or something.
I continued filling my one-dollar Slurpee cup, even though I was mask-less. I grabbed the correct spoon-tipped straw after discarding two others that were carelessly placed in the wrong bin. Heading towards the checkout line, I noticed the clerk behind the counter had a mask on, which was not unusual and felt a little self-conscious. Then I saw four of the five people ahead of me on the line were also mask-less.
I obediently took my place on the mandated socially distanced circle on the ground and glanced around. I saw a mask-less young woman in desperate need of a sip of coffee, frantically trying to extricate one of the covers from the top of the pile. It was easy to see the frustration on her face as the cover seemed to be glued to the others and undetachable. Finally, her expression changed to satisfaction. She had pried the lid from its sticky predicament, attached it to her cup and finally sipped from the tiny hole near the edge. Ah, the nectar of the Gods.
There was a father with two young children struggling to decide on what color Slurpee’s to choose. When finished, you could plainly see the smiles on their faces along with relief on the father’s. Of course, that all changed when little Billy dropped his “blue” Slurpee while trying to insert the spoon-straw.
When asked by the clerk about a bag for his items, instead of hearing a muffled response from the guy in front of me, I heard a loud and clear, “No thanks.” After several decades of listening to loud rock and roll music, I know my hearing isn’t what it once was. Still, I’m getting better at lipreading to help. To be honest, trying to figure out what people are saying from behind their masks was getting more difficult for me. Unlike Superman, I don’t have x-ray vision.
It’s great that we seem to have turned the corner on this pandemic and are starting to gather in public places again. People are attending sporting events, going to the movies, and listening to live music again. Friday night, we were part of a packed local bar to see a band playing classic rock music. People were laughing and talking and dancing. But most of all, they were smiling.
And the best part was, now we could all see them smile again.