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A fortnight had passed since my second vaccination, and you know what that means: all the little nano-gears and tiny sprockets embedded in the vaccine kick in, click together, whirrr up and produce IMMUNITY! Yesterday, vulnerability. Today: Superman ripping open his clark-kent shirt and looking to the horizon while covid cells bounce off his chesty logo.
Thus infused with newfound invulnerability, I decided to break the law. In Minneapolis you have to wear a mask indoors, lest asymptomatic variants gust from your mouth, and also to set a good example. But I walked inside the office, across the lobby, up the escalator, and into the elevator with a shameless naked face. Come and get me, copper.
After a few hours in the empty office I decided to go out for a small cigar, and for the first time in a year did not loop the strings around my ears to prevent infection in the dangerous elevator-lobby space. I walked past the security station. The guard looked up. We nodded to each other. He did not command me to cover my filthy germ-hole.
I took the escalator down to the lobby, and for the first time in my life I was struck by the scent of the air. It’s possible the building has installed scrubbers and purifiers; they’re now CERTIFIED according to the WELL standards. But it seemed bright and fresh in a way I’d never noticed. Had it always been so? Was I j noticing it now because I’d spent the last year breathing my own breath, with its top notes of pastrami and subsequent Altoids? There was a difference in the character of the air in the foyer – crisper, more Alpine – and then the immediate rush of humid city springtime aromas when I stepped outside. I felt like a dog in a moving car with his head out the window.
In the evening I went shopping for groceries. If you stop for food on 54th street, you must wear a mask. If you shop for food on 62nd street, you do not, because one is Minneapolis and the other isn’t. There is SCIENCE on this side of the dotted line, and there is ALSO SCIENCE BECAUSE REASONS on the other.
Trader Joe’s has a sign: masks are only required for the unvaccinated. About 90% of the shoppers had masks. One dad had his tot wearing a mask. The clerk said the staff might be permitted to ditch them, but didn’t know when; in the meantime, I had to stand six feet away from the checkout and advance only when my items had been bagged. At Target it was more or less the same, although there was one woman who was a dead ringer for Twin Peaks’ Log Lady who stood out, because she just emanated a calm sense of “got the shot, done with it” vibe.
On the way home I hit my favorite part of the highway, which has a 90-degree curve and requires moving over three lanes to get to my exit. I love to pull some Gs on that turn, especially on a summer night with the roof open and the music loud on a car with a low center of gravity. It is a matter of planning and machinery control, knowing the road, judging the flow, checking the merge. Driving. It’s always fun. It was only when I pulled into the garage that I realized it was the first time in a year there wasn’t a mask hanging off the gear shift. Usually I transfer it to the gear shift when I get in the car. Rote habit. Ritual. Unthinking, just what you do.
Not any more. Bulletproof, daddy-O. Because science.Published in