It’s official: we are now in the “re-opening-of-society” phase of the COVID Capers with regard to the nation, state, county, and city. For two months, Americans have experienced variations on a generally innocent and endearing theme of gratitude along with “party on, dudes” all over TV, radio, and social media. That has been contrasted with a few neighbors sometimes acting like the Thought Police; literally tracking peoples’ every move with more prowess than Gladys Kravitz keeping an eye on her neighbors in Bewitched. George Orwell could not have come up with stuff like this. And, a few governors have followed suit with what has seemed like nothing short of power-tripping.
Let me be clear. I have had some truly wonderful things happen since the middle of March, and I would like to think that the uncertainty of the times caused some folks to drop some of their barriers and quit practicing long-standing “emotional distancing.” I have laughed harder with more people than since I was in Iraq. I have seen touching expressions of generosity, kindness, bravery, selflessness, and straight- up love that have moved me. And throughout it all, what seemed to prevail was a sense of adventure and unity.
However, I think it needs to be said that unity that is largely based on the family of Man, as opposed to the love of God is at best fickle. We are starting to see the emergence of what I have come to call “COVID crankiness,” and it is something that Chuck Norris early on said would happen.
I would define “COVID crankiness” as a somewhat sudden, invasive irritability that is like a non-life threatening, low-grade fever. It doesn’t stop you in your tracks, and it certainly is no cause for alarm. But, it needs to be managed, and managed well. Why? Because as quickly as we have come together, we could fall apart; and squandering what has been built over the course of the last two months over stupid stuff is, well, stupid.
I’ll give you an example of something I experienced earlier this week -- my first brush with this malaise. Since “Safer At Home” began, I have tried to make a point of frequenting a local restaurant at least one time a week, and decided to patronize one that I had not been in for years. I found myself getting irritated with what seemed like overkill in the “distancing directives,” and I did not feel I was being treated like a valued customer. Now, I didn’t blow up, I only emitted an irritated sigh, got my food, and started to leave the parking area. And then, I felt that “nudge.” You know what I am talking about, that “ahem” from Heaven that lets you know that you need to go make it right.
So, I went back and from 20 feet, I apologized to the manager for my irritation. This man comes from a culture where repentance does not readily occur; it is far more common to fume until you forget why you were annoyed, and then go back to acting the way you did before you got mad. As a result, things fester and offences are not often confronted or dealt with. Not a healthy way to live, and I was accurate in thinking that the manager would be a little taken aback when he saw me a few minutes later.
I apologized, and we actually talked. I know it surprised him, and we had a nice chat. “Please come back again,” he said. “I will,” I said, and added, “Thank you for accepting my apology.” What is the cure for “COVID crankiness?” The same thing as when there are no weird bugs floating around that attack your pocketbook as well as your sense of autonomy: if you mess up, you need to fess up. The Good Book promises that when you do, you’ll be healed. And I can say from recent experience, the Good Book is right.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner