I am not sure if any of you have noticed but the quarantine has brought out the crazy in some folks. It’s not the ones you would expect. I’m not sure if it’s because they are spending so much time with their spouses than normal that they are taking it out on the rest of us or if they are really getting cabin fever. Today’s episode is probably out of character for me but I except a challenge to be stretched in my abilities to see the humor it. I didn’t at first, if I am being honest. However, after I have thought about it I think it is the perfect opportunity to turn on the oven and prepare for a roast!
My wife, if you do not know, was born in South Korea. Now, she was raised in the United States since she was about 4 ½. She did have to go through an ordeal with immigration around 1999 when we tried to apply for a passport to go see her adoptive mother that lived in Japan. The application triggered a whirlwind of events that lasted until 2008. We had to appear in deportation court, even though we had been married, at that time, for 5 years. It was a trying time for us that depleted our savings to pay legal fees and filing fees with the government to keep her from being deported. Now, do not think for one second we are bitter about any of it. You cannot know how proud I am of her and to watch how she handled all of that. Through all of that battle, she maintained the attitude that because we have laws in this country and because we work hard to defend those laws – it was only right to go bout the entire process as we should. In 2008, she became a naturalized citizen of the United States – every inch of her – all 4’9” of her (unless she’s wearing her heels). I needed for you to get a mental image of her. Now, imagine this petite 4’9” Asian cutie-pie that I love with all of my heart with the Southern draw as thick as anyone you know from Itawamba County MS. (For all of you that listen to this podcast from anywhere than Mississippi, the accent is NOT the Scarlett O’Hare from Gone with The Wind, but rather more like kid from Sling Blade thick). Now, picture her doing her dead level best to social distance and keep an awareness that there is some kind of bug that is literally present to kill anyone that wishes to not protect themselves. I mean, she doesn’t go into town without her mask and her gloves. She is every Manga cartoon character you’ve ever seen.
She asked if I would drive her to Tupelo on Friday. That way, she would only have to get out and worry about sanitizing one door handle. I would save her the trouble of having to wipe down the stirring wheel. I would just drop her at the door so that both of us would not be inside the store together. This is her plan to minimize cross contamination. To be fair to her – she’s been doing this since our first born was brought into this world. If we went anywhere it wouldn’t matter if Mr. Clean himself moonwalked into a decontaminated green zone – she was going to clean the area again before we ate or pushed a buggy of some sort. This pandemic did NOT catch her off guard at all. I drop her off at one of the grocery stores (Aldi’s, if you must know) and she got out with her list in her hand. I am doing as I’m told and stayed in the truck. A few minutes later she emerges from the store with her bag and goes through her routine to sterilize anything she can and proceeds to get into the truck. As we are about to leave she tells me what just transpired inside the store.
As she was standing in line to pay for the groceries a grown adult man standing behind her was becoming agitated. He was becoming a spectacle. He was questioning the cashier why there were no more registers open. He was only 3rd in line behind my wife that really didn’t have a lot. He did not like the explanation given that they only open another register as they need to and that she would get to him quickly. He wasn’t having it. He begins to raise his voice and announce to anyone that would listen that we are not in America anymore. This is not America. The quarantine is not American.
It was at that moment that something bold rose up inside of this little petite woman who is mostly an Angel unless one of our kids leaves a dirty dish in the sink. It was if she was the body of water that Godzilla lived in and someone had mashed the panic button to summons the large lizard to come take out some buildings. She turns to the adult grown man and said, “Yes sir it is very much still America!”
You would think that would be it and we can get home and enjoy our groceries. Of course not – this sorry excuse for a human being holding his Jiffy Pop popcorn and Diet no name brand cola made the one mistake he should have never made. Something in his brain had apparently malfunctioned due to the hardship of sheltering in place or maybe his wife hisses at him like a mad cat for no reason and it’s obviously had a profound effect on his ability to keep his own mouth shut. He looks at my wife and says, “This AIN’T America – YOU are not American!” [A long dramatic pause] Uh Oh! I am pretty sure her eye twitched a little. The Pikachu loose in her mind broke whatever hamster wheel it was jogging on that would normally keep her under control. In all the years I’ve known her there has never been once that I remember her having a confrontation with another person. She isn’t wired that way – I thought. The mental note right now is make sure my life insurance is paid up and hope to all things holy I didn’t leave the toilet seat in the upright position back at home. Something clicked in her that made the patriot rise up and take control. This buffoon just implied that she was not an American. Suddenly, all those years that she was told she wasn’t American up till the day she raised her hand and took an oath to become a naturalized citizen – intersected into a pivotal moment. Now, in my mind, I see a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon moment where she suspends in midair and bicycle kicks this potato back to the produce isle. I imagine her becoming every character of Kung Fu Panda and rolling this guy into a burrito and stuffing him into small freezer. She looks at him over her surgical mask and says – “Again, I am VERY much an American and this is VERY MUCH America!” Again, in my mind, I am imagining the background music from Independence Day right after we defeated the aliens.
It would be my humble advice to everyone that we realize that we are in this together whether we like it or not. We all matter. The healthcare person working extra hard to keep from bringing something home to the family – they matter. The truck drivers delivering items from warehouses to stores – matters. The clerks at the stores stocking shelves and meeting people all day long – matters. The restaurant owners learning a new way to feed everyone with curbside service – matters. The family members with compromised immune systems – matters. Those sheltering in place and wondering how bills will be paid until this is done – matters. At the end of the day, we should all matter to one another. We should respect each other so much that we work hard to stay healthy, but then work a little harder to keep one another healthy. Finally, it is apparently left up to the smallest among us to be the loudest. Don’t let the worse cases among us get away with bringing these workers down with hard words of criticism. Speak up for them – and shut down the negativity. Some of us learned this growing up when we would get into trouble – go to your rooms and don’t say a word. If we can do that a little bit longer we’ll all be better for it tomorrow.
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