Interactions of great and ordinary consequence: Breakthrough for now and the unknowable future

For all of you, especially Gabe and Lynette

I don’t know how anybody does anything these days. You’re right about COVID. It feels like a fugue state. I’m tired and uninspired, and realizing the importance of all of those seemingly inconsequential interactions that made life exciting or interesting or upsetting or frustrating, like a conversation with someone you don’t know at the park or chats with the barista. — Gabe

None of what follows will be news. I went for a check-up with my nurse
practitioner. I walked into a near empty waiting room, a few chairs spaced the requisite six feet apart, one of them occupied.  I wore a dark blue Hello Kitty mask that my son had sent from Japan. The receptionist asked me to sanitize my hands, handed me a medical mask and asked me to put it on. I complied and sat in a chair as far away as I could get from the one other person in the room, a guy easily as old as I am, masked, sad-eyed, with a quad cane leaning against his leg. I nodded. He tipped an imaginary hat. We looked away from each other.

I saw the xmas tree; the empty health pamphlet rack; the screen broadcasting useful tips for patients. I felt the entirety of who and where and when I was and knew I needed to take a photograph with my phone. I and this near-empty room were historical artifacts. I took the picture and I knew I would be posting it – depending on the results of the covid test I’d taken earlier in the day – here.

That was a week ago. And, I am here. To tell you that I believe that many of us are in the grip of a collective disruption beyond the presence of the plague. Help me isolate that disruption. Help me contact trace it. Help me remember that you are out there – and we are capable of interactions of great  and ordinary consequence.




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