So I told you about one thing that I hate about the ‘new normal’. Another thing that pisses me off about it has been bothering me from the beginning: how our lameass masks make it impossible to smile at people.
I smile at strangers because you never know when someone’s having a really bad day and getting smiled at by someone can maybe make it better. That’s something Meemaw taught me to do. Ok, so y’all may be thinking that it’s nice to smile at strangers but it’s no big deal if you can’t, since most people don’t anyway. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes you need to smile so people can understand what you’re doing.
Like at the Kroger last week.
I was outside the one on Lake to get Mrs. LaSalle’s groceries and I went to get a cart. There was an older latina woman there trying to pull one out as well, only the front two were stuck together. I figured I was probably strong enough to get them separated, so I gave the woman my best Southern gentleman smile and gave a pull. The carts came apart, only the woman’s finger got in the way a little. A little. I promise you, it wasn’t like her finger got ripped off or mutilated and I don’t go around hurting old ladies on purpose.
But dang did she give me a dirty look and tell me that I’d hurt her. All I was trying to do was help…and she’d of known that if she saw me smile. Only she didn’t, so I reckon she thought I was just some jerkoff who wanted a cart and pulled one out, without giving a shit about who might be attached to the other one.
Of course, why the woman didn’t let go when she saw me take a hold of both carts is a dang good question, too, smile or no smile.
Anyway, she was with a couple people – maybe her daughter and son-in-law – and she started telling them how I’d maimed her for life or something. (Other good question: why wasn’t her able-bodied son-in-law there to get the cart instead of her?) Finally, I felt I had to say something. My Spanish isn’t good enough to say I was sorry and all was doing was trying to help, so I said it in English…and the daughter and son-in-law both said no worries. The woman was still giving me a dirty look, though.
I reckon it shouldn’t have bothered me so much, but I really was trying to help an older woman out…and I got shit for it. I hate it when that happens. And I don’t like it that the woman thought that I was some millennial asshole or something.
The point of the story is that, if we weren’t wearing masks, the problem wouldn’t have happened. She’d have seen me smiling and she’d have let go of the carts so I could separate them and I’d have done my good deed for the day.
Now don’t get me wrong here. It’s not that I’m saying we shouldn’t be wearing masks like Dad says a whole lot of assholes back home are saying. We obviously need to wear masks. But we also gotta find a solution to the smiling problem. Joyce says that I ought to try and smile with my eyes and I honestly try to do that. I tried to do that when I had the incident with the woman outside the Kroger. I smiled under my mask and thought that the smile would carry through to my eyes. Only it obviously didn’t.
So here’s another thing:
I’m as big on eye contact as I am on smiling. Dad taught me all about eye contact when I was in middle school and it’s a really good skill to have if you’re in the ‘public eye’ like I was a little when I was playing college and pro ball. (Yeah, the sports reporter for the Hickory Daily Record did a real nice interview piece on me once…and I was one of the guys he used to come to in the locker room for post-game quotes.)
Now, you might think that, since we’re covering the rest of our faces, people would be making more eye contact with each other, since eyes are all there is to see of people’s faces anymore. But I get the feeling that it’s the reverse: people are making less and not more eye contact. I’m not sure, but I reckon it may be that people think other people look threatening with their noses and mouths covered and that’s a deterrent for eye contact. I definitely get the impression that people look away or try not to make eye contact with me…and I really don’t like that. Like I keep telling y’all, I’m a friendly guy…and like to feel that get reciprocated.
Joyce says I may be onto something, but Keaton tells me I’m just being all gayass over this mask thing and that the real reason I don’t like masks is that I’ve stopped getting the looks I was used to getting from people who saw me in the street. I mean, it’s true that no one knows what anyone looks like anymore – it’s like some fucked up Arabian Nights shit. Maybe people don’t meet your eyes because they think everyone’s from the Taliban now lol.
I can’t wait until we can go back to smiling and making eye contact, although it’s gonna be a while. That means I’ve got to come up with some alternative to smiling…since I can’t take another 6 months of old ladies getting pissed off at me outside the Kroger when I’m really just trying to help them.