I went to my first in-person conference in almost two years and, I have to say, it was odd. Many of the people there I had only ‘met’ via Zoom, and they looked a little strange in three-dimensional form. A popular topic was “Holy moly! Dress shoes! I forgot!” I suspect that the footwear industry is going to change radically and soon.
The worst part, to me, was the buffet lines. We are still in a quasi-post-pandemic time of transition. We’re not fully released into the wild, nor should we be. The State of Georgia, where I live, only has about 33% of adults fully vaccinated as of the writing of this piece, and 70% is needed for herd immunity. I’ve also read that the Delta variant doesn’t much give a flip if you’ve been vaccinated, and is highly popular, as most unsavory things are. I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in being the carrier who spreads something to a chemo patient or to someone’s medically vulnerable grandma or child who couldn’t be vaccinated for one reason or another even if I’m not susceptible to it myself.
But back to buffet lines. Like I said, we are still in a time of transition. We are no longer living in a world of community tongs and serving spoons. Convention center employees, properly gloved and masked, dished everything up for you and handled everything so as to minimize the sharing of cooties.
This wouldn’t really have bothered me except that it made me feel like a piglet. I was already feeling a bit odd being boxed in by that many strangers breathing in my vicinity for the first time in a year and a half. Now I had some 19-year-old with a summer job and zero percent body fat deciding how much mac and cheese to dump on my plate. Look at me, Blake. Look at me. Do I look like the kind of girl who only wants one scoop? Now you gonna make me say out loud. “No, a little more…a little more…” and now you’re gonna make me ask you to pick out the mushrooms so that those close-cousins-of-jock-itch don’t contaminate my salad. Oh, for crying out loud, yes, I want some apple AND some peach cobbler, STOP JUDGING ME. Life is too short not to put whipped cream on top.
It was all kind of strange, like we collectively forgot how to be together collectively. The rules of engagement had both changed and not changed and none of us were sure what we were supposed to do. This was a business meeting: were we supposed to shake hands? If not, what replaced handshaking? Generally, handshaking ended up being replaced by an awkward conversation about not knowing what was supposed to replace handshaking. Signs on the wall warned of dire consequences if we stepped onto an elevator without a mask or with someone we weren’t related to, but everyone largely ignored the signs and no consequences, dire or otherwise, occurred (maybe – it hasn’t been ten days yet – we’ll see if there’s an outbreak.) We were told to socially distance, but the music at the schmooze fests was so loud that you had to get six inches from someone to hear what they had to say.
For anyone who thinks/thought that this pandemic and the behavior changes it brought on will just end one day, you can just forget about that line of thinking. This is something we are going to have to collectively ease our way out of and it is going to take some time. There will be bumps in the road, and we will probably have to take some steps backwards as well as forwards. So long as there is cobbler and mac and cheese, though, I’ll be all right.
 ‘Herd’ is a super-appropriate word, but that’s a topic for another day.
 It took me three tries to spell susceptible correctly.
 And a cherry. DO NOT deprive me of my cherry.
If you enjoyed this and want to read more like it, visit Lori at her website, www.loriduffwrites.com, on Twitter, or on Facebook. Her newest book, a Foreword INDIES Gold Medal award winner, “If You Did What I Asked In The First Place” is currently available by clicking here.