What I Forgot
I got my Covid vaccine six weeks ago and was ready to take on the world. So I went out to lunch with a couple of friends at an actual restaurant. Immediately, I noticed that things were different. My two friends sat across from me and actually talked. Unlike my two cats who sit across from me on the couch and just stare. I had to make conversation with regular adults. And I needed to do so without offering them little tidbits from off of my plate. I forgot that humans need conversation, not desiccated treats.
Because of virus concerns, we sat at an outside table. It was so wonderful because the hot, humid weather allowed outdoor seating. I had eaten at other restaurants during the winter part of quarantine, but that required several layers of clothing, near an outdoor heater and wait staff willing to bring a constant supply of warm drinks. This summer outing was infinitely better because we could sit two inches closer to the table without all the outerwear. I forgot what it was like to sit that close to a surface I was eating from.
Sitting at an actual table instead of sitting on a couch made me realize that my posture was upright. I wasn’t slouched on the sofa and I wasn’t bending over six layers of winter clothes. I could just sit up, face my friends and eat like a regular person. Well, kind of. After 14 or 15 months of eating alone on the sofa, I was unpracticed in using a napkin. For some time I had become accustomed to letting things fall where they may – down the front of my sweatshirt, onto the floor or in between the cushions of the couch. Of course I’d clean it up but eating at a restaurant doesn’t offer the perks of sloppiness one can acquire when there’s nobody to notice for over a year. I had forgotten that out in public I had to, as my grandmother used to say, “Sit up, young lady!” In following those childhood instructions, I realized that sitting upright requires a different set of muscular contractions, whereas slouching requires almost none. By the end of the two hour lunch, certain muscles that I won’t mention, were sore. Who knew that sitting was so much work? I guess I forgot that too.
I realized that we are no longer socially distancing, we are socially contracting. That means act nice, be polite, speak up, but not too loud. Use things like plates, silverware, and napkins. Pay attention so food doesn’t fall down the front of your shirt. I was no longer eating from the pan on the stove and using the back of my arm in case of spills. Beverages out in public typically come in attractive glassware, not the old Tupperware tumblers I bought at a garage sale. It dawned on me that I would be required to pay attention to what my friends were saying and to interact with them. That’s part of the social contract that I forgot.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable lunch. Old habits were resurrected, new habits were forged. I am committed to rejoin civilization as we once knew it. Or even civilization as it will become. As Phoebe Snow and then Aretha Franklin assured us, it’s a different world from where you come from.