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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Meyer

Polite Smile, Nervous Laugh

Interpretation by Amy Maxine

I am a person who is (despite the pandemic) still buying her groceries in person. It’s pretty much the only thing I do in public outside of driving.

I remember the days (just shy of a year ago) when I’d turn a corner with my cart, nearly play bumper cars with someone else turning a corner and we’d each grimace, lift our eyebrows in surprise and say, Oops! Sorry! Then came the polite smiles, the nervous laughs, the wave of the hands, the subtle hunching of the shoulders, and the simultaneous side-step meant to allow the other person to pass. This kind of body language was all very quaint and Midwestern and, well, normal.

Now that the pandemic is raging the majority of us either order curbside pickup or go into the grocery store with a stern, straight-backed mission to get in and get out, and DO NOT look anyone in the eye as the carrots are being tossed into the cart.

But what if we accidentally bump into each other like we did in the olden days? What do we do? Our faces are covered and therefore our “Oh, that’s ok” smiles are covered too. How do we act?

The “Let’s pretend that didn’t happen” method is very popular. But I personally like the charades method, which involves eye pops, lots of “oh, dear me” hand gestures, squinty eyes to indicate a smile behind the mask, and using my words (even though that’s against charade rules) to say, Oops! Sorry! which I now tend to say more loudly than usual because masks make all words sound foreign. (Luckily we all know that if someone doesn’t understand a word you just have to say it much, much louder.)

Honestly, I think it’s kind of nice to ram into someone’s cart now and then because we’re all so isolated and a little cart bump offers us a chance to say a few words—in public! And to do a little apologetic dancing—in public!

Am I saying you should worry about the safety of your eggs if you spy me pushing a cart at the grocery store? Until a vaccine arrives and we can all fearlessly breathe on each other again, yes. Yes, I am.

XO, Michelle

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