Aisle Of Wit

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What Are YOU Smoking?!?!?!?

I took yet another holiday weekend trip to my sanctuary of sanity. completed yesterday just in time to be back where the choice and quality of legal weed was ample enough to celebrate today appropriately (and responsibly, I assure you.  The Nets-Celtics rematch and the streaking Mets are far too attractive tube propositions for me to even consider going out tonight, so rest assured any baking will involve me and dinner and not driving).

Amazingly, Monday’s announcement by a Florida judge that the mask mandate on public transit was voided due to what she interpreted as an overstepping of authority by adding yet another two weeks afforded me an opportunity to indulge in one of my favorite research passions–ethnographic observation–in real time on my flight home.

I flew from the Pacific Northwest, where policies have been much more liberal for the entire winter and despite mostly awful, winter-like conditions for the duration of my stay the majority of people I encountered were cheerful, maskless and upbeat.  Yes, we kept our distance, but at least I could see their reactions to my sometimes-awkward attempts at small talk (though, to be sure, complimenting someone’s smile is a great icebreaker).  Most of the time, I got a smile back.  Those that did wear masks were mostly elderly people or young parents with obviously toddler-age children in tow.  Their eyes were smiling at least.

As I boarded my flight the very same flight attendants who last week were emphatically defending masking behind their thin paper surgical face diapers were now unsheathed, smiling and happily sharing the gospel which their chairman tweeted out within hours of Monday’s revised ruling, which looked forward to “seeing customers’ smiling faces and thanking our loyal customers for their patience”.  I prepared for takeoff ready to have some fun as a silent anthropoligist.

Then the alert came in that the Department of Justice, yes part of the same government infrastructure that still can’t seem to find the urgency to charge a former president formally as mounds of testimony and texts incriminating him mount despite the ticking clock of crucial mid-term primaries, was going to appeal the less than day-old ruling “if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deems it necessary”.  Yes, this was the alert that followed a flurry of alerts from virtually every major air carrier, Amtrak, Uber and even Lyft that were similarly worded to the cheerful revised mission statement that my carrier’s employees had just done a 180 on.

And as a handful of passengers were quickly added onto to our 3/4-filled flight who were connecting from San Francisco, my ethnographic mission was challenged by my new seat neighbor, double-masked, sad-eyed and looking with disdain as I grimaced upon her arrival.  For the record, I was far more disappointed in having to get up and stow my newspaper bag for takeoff than I was seeing her.  But let’s just say her greeting didn’t help.

As she settled uncomfortably into her seat, she looked directly at me and muttered “You always been this much of an asshole?”.

I mumbled back “Did you say something?”

She looked away and lied “Nope”.

When we landed, I took the following contrasting pictures.  These were the arriving people gathering their luggage:

And these were the big city folk awaiting them:

Can you spot the differences?

Anyone who claims this is an issue about safety only is, frankly, smoking something not fit for consumption today.  Like it or not, the swiftness of the response of the beleaguered travel industry vs. the government agencies so desperately trying to maintain the illusion of having a handle on things as well as the contrast of how larger cities’ residents act versus those in smaller ones can’t be summarily dismissed as non-factors.   Given my confrontation with Miss Congeniality (Congeality?) occurred in first class, I’d offer my research training would quickly throw income as a factor in this clearly politicized issue as well.

I’m often admonished as being too focused on this issue, that I should be tolerant of people’s determination to keep me safe, and respect that there may be unseen factors such as who they live with or what conditions they may live with that impact their decisions.  And I’ll admit that’s true.  But please hear ME out:  If that’s the case, then shut your damn mouth (we can’t see your lips move anyway) and don’t you DARE imply that I’M jeopardizing YOUR health.  Because, frankly, more than enough evidence exists to at least allow for that side of the argument to be considered equally as valid as yours.

Once again for the record:  I’m triple vaccinated.  I’m scheduled for my second booster shot before month’s end.  I had a head cold–NOT COVID–which the rainy weather I experienced caused during my trip, and yes I was coughing.  I wore a mask to prevent my obvious germs from spreading to people who were kind enough to invite me into their home for Easter breakfast, and they were appreciative though it was clear they had no expectation that I should accommodate them.  I got a prescription cough medicine through a Telehealth visit (I’m not a Luddite with personal care, either), scrambled to have it filled promptly, took as prescribed and my symptoms cleared up sufficiently enough for me to have the confidence to board my flight maskless, my dour next door neighbor’s viewpoint notwithstanding.

No, sister, I’ve not always been this much of an asshole.  I’ve been far worse.   What’s your excuse?

My bottom-line reason for being so focused is that I equate tolerance with transparency and strongly believe the mentality of persistently trying to extend a pandemic lifestyle into a lifetime of isolation with remote work, elitist attitude, arrogance about the necessity for occasional human contact and expecting consensus to your values is consistent with the qualities of those who ignore my e-mails requesting jobs, outdoor coffee, or human connection, both among people I yearn to meet and people I desperately want to reconnect with.   For me, the quicker we end this tug-of-war of philosophy and paranoia, the sooner we all can be sociable and gainfully employed again.

Is it a fully sensible attitude to have?  Probably not.  But, heck, it’s now been more than two years of this back-and-forth.  We seem to accept the fact that mental health in general has deteriorated, and numerous recent studies confirm that’s true, more so among those who fit the demographic profile of the societal sectors more rigid about mask-wearing.

Yet in my inner circle (outside of my refuges beyond LA) silence, confusion, “trust the science” and “I’ll see you after the pandemic” continue to be the default responses, as if on autoreply.  I, for one, am beyond done.

It’s 4/20 Day.  Not Groundhog Day.  Time to light and lighten up.

If you remove your mask and take a deep responsible breath, you can enjoy accordingly.  Otherwise, I guess there’s an alternative cavity you can fill.  But please don’t think of wasting it with good weed.  Instead, I’d offer instead that you shove your inconsistent fear-mongering attitude up it.

Until next time....