It’s Going to Be a Bumpy Ride

 

As the doorbell rang, I let go of the napkin I was fingering and hurried, then slowed down, as I walked to the door. Ted watched me from the other side of the room and smiled reassuringly. My heart felt as if it would leap out of my chest. I took a deep breath, paused at the door, put a smile on my face, and said a brief prayer. As I opened the door, Valerie was on the other side with a silly grin on her face.

She said, “Hey you!! How have you been? She stepped in confidently and gave me a big hug. It felt great, and we held onto each other for an extra moment and then stepped back with tears in our eyes. She saw Ted and called out, “Hey, big guy!” He grinned back.

“Well, I’m lots better now that you’re here. Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

“Of course, I am. It’s time to get over ourselves and move on. Don’t you think so?”

“I agree, but I’ve never done anything quite like this before. I feel like I’m asking everyone to be guinea pigs! But I miss all of you. I just hope this works.”

“It’ll work fine. Don’t worry.”

At that moment the doorbell rang again and I stepped around Valerie to answer it. As I opened the door, Bill and Ellen smiled tentatively at me.

“Julia, how are you?”

“I’m doing great. How are you?”

“We’re fine, too.” Ellen looked around, saw Valerie and Ted and gave them a princess wave. I suspected her stiffness was an omen.

“It’s good to see both of you. Thanks for agreeing to come tonight. Why don’t you two come over here so I can explain first how all this will work.”

I walked toward the bridge table with the teal tablecloth covered with little stickers; some were pale yellow and the rest were emerald green. Valerie had followed us with a friendly grin and I took another deep breath.

“So, thanks for coming, you guys. It’s been a tough four months, and we’ve all discussed how we wanted to experience life as it used to be. Since the twelve of us have known each other for a long time, I thought I’d have this fun way to bring us together so that we could all be comfortable spending time with each other, since we all have different degrees of ease with social distancing; we want to be careful and yet not sacrifice the friendships we have. The others should be here shortly.

“So, I’ve designed these little badges for us to wear. We all know each other pretty well, so we probably don’t need them, but at the same time, it might be hard to anticipate which of us would rather maintain our distance, and those of us who don’t mind hugging or sitting close.

“The light yellow stickers are for those who would prefer to keep six feet apart, and the dark green ones are for those who don’t care about distance. I tried to use light and dark since a couple of you guys are color blind. Does that make sense?”

Bill, with his sardonic tone, asked, “Is there a reason that you used yellow for those who are concerned, Julia?”

I felt my face turn warm and tried to laugh. “No, Bill, but I knew I could count on you to find something wrong with the idea.” I bit my lip and looked away. Ted was watching us and I saw him purse his lips. Not a good sign.

Bill lifted one eyebrow and said, “I think I’ll fix myself a drink. Are those divided up, too?”

Valerie and I locked eyes, and she subtly shook her head.

Seven more people were due to arrive at any moment.

It was going to be a very long night.

My thanks to @rushbabe49 for her post that inspired this story.

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There are 17 comments.

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  1. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    I see what you did there, we of the “yellow badges”.

    • #1
  2. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    I see what you did there, we of the “yellow badges”.

    Yup.

    • #2
  3. Buckpasser Member
    Buckpasser
    @Buckpasser

    Susan, I have thought about badges or signs for “social distancing” as well.  I’m getting tired of walking down the sidewalk and someone moves to the other side of the street or just into the street to get as far away from me as possible.  I thought you only did that if the people walking toward you were sketchy.  Of course, maybe I’m not so self aware and am one of the sketchy ones.

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Buckpasser (View Comment):

    Susan, I have thought about badges or signs for “social distancing” as well. I’m getting tired of walking down the sidewalk and someone moves to the other side of the street or just into the street to get as far away from me as possible. I thought you only did that if the people walking toward you were sketchy. Of course, maybe I’m not so self aware and am one of the sketchy ones.

    I don’t think so—I just think people are paranoid. I move to the edge of the sidewalk I’m on during my morning walks, and on the narrower sidewalks I move a foot onto the grass, just before we pass each other. But some of them walk in the middle of the street! With masks! I guess I should be more understanding but I’m just not.

    • #4
  5. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    I refuse to be afraid of everyone. I do not see all other people as disease-ridden enemies. 

    • #5
  6. Old Buckeye Inactive
    Old Buckeye
    @OldBuckeye

    Yes, Susan, the yellow badges in your well-conceived story triggered a thought that I had a few days ago: If “the government” (or “our betters”–whatever form they took) told us to wear badges to designate us in some way, would we do it? Do we really know the end game that some have in mind? 

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Old Buckeye (View Comment):

    Yes, Susan, the yellow badges in your well-conceived story triggered a thought that I had a few days ago: If “the government” (or “our betters”–whatever form they took) told us to wear badges to designate us in some way, would we do it? Do we really know the end game that some have in mind?

    It would be a step too far–way too far. I wouldn’t.

    • #7
  8. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    I would also object to mandated badges, etc. — and suspect there’d be a serious First Amendment objection raised. But I recall someone (wish I could remember who) suggesting that those who are worried about distance might take it upon themselves to wear a colored bracelet or some such, something to indicate to others that they have a special concern. That would put the onus on those who want extra distance to communicate that, and give them an easy way to do so, while leaving the rest free to go about their lives normally.

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    I would also object to mandated badges, etc. — and suspect there’d be a serious First Amendment objection raised. But I recall someone (wish I could remember who) suggesting that those who are worried about distance might take it upon themselves to wear a colored bracelet or some such, something to indicate to others that they have a special concern. That would put the onus on those who want extra distance to communicate that, and give them an easy way to do so, while leaving the rest free to go about their lives normally.

    Interesting suggestion, Hank, but there’d be problems. Did you put your bracelet on today? Is it large enough to be seen? Will they be colored according to your co-morbidity? I know you’re just sharing someone else’s suggestion, but I’m quite concern about more steps alienation that might be taken. Darn.

    • #9
  10. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    IMO, this would make a terrific short story, slightly extended.

    John Updike never had such great material.

    • #10
  11. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    What makes this story funny is that it is not funny. And that it not a criticism of the post. This ongoing charade makes we want to do every thing I can to get infected and get it over with. Seriously.

    • #11
  12. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    If there were a clinical trial where someone could give you a low dose of viral spray in your nose to see what the outcome was, I would sign up for it today.

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    What makes this story funny is that it is not funny. And that it not a criticism of the post. This ongoing charade makes we want to do every thing I can to get infected and get it over with. Seriously.

    “Absurd” might fit the bill. You tapped into my intent. 

    • #13
  14. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    What makes this story funny is that it is not funny. And that it not a criticism of the post. This ongoing charade makes we want to do every thing I can to get infected and get it over with. Seriously.

    “Absurd” might fit the bill. You tapped into my intent.

    Absurd is a word that is used not nearly enough.

    • #14
  15. M. Brandon Godbey Member
    M. Brandon Godbey
    @Brandon

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    What makes this story funny is that it is not funny. And that it not a criticism of the post. This ongoing charade makes we want to do every thing I can to get infected and get it over with. Seriously.

    “Charade” is the word that catches my eye.  So much of our lives today revolves around playing pretend for an imaginary social-media audience.  It’s like virtue signaling has seeped into our bones, and we can’t differentiate between our true selves and the avatar we wish to present the digital world.  

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    M. Brandon Godbey (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    What makes this story funny is that it is not funny. And that it not a criticism of the post. This ongoing charade makes we want to do every thing I can to get infected and get it over with. Seriously.

    “Charade” is the word that catches my eye. So much of our lives today revolves around playing pretend for an imaginary social-media audience. It’s like virtue signaling has seeped into our bones, and we can’t differentiate between our true selves and the avatar we wish to present the digital world.

    I continually have the sense of living in a dream. How can this be real life? 

    • #16
  17. Philopus Inactive
    Philopus
    @Philopus

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    breath

    We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!

    • #17