By Katherine Wright
I never thought I would say it, but I miss sitting next to chatty people on the airplane, getting lectures and unrequested career advice every time I try to start watching a movie. Oh, and how I miss the random talks in the aisles of the grocery store, the awkward elevator chit-chat and the in-your-face sidewalk questions.
To the random guy dancing in the middle of the juice bar, I miss you.
The mildly irritating, unprompted conversations in our daily lives have been replaced with fearful glances, judgmental looks and people screaming at those who walk the wrong direction down the one-way aisles of the grocery store. People-watching has become people-glaring.
People have always judged strangers to some degree, in ways such as feigning violent coughing while passing smokers on city streets and forcefully shoving random people in crowded, general-admission concert venues.
We’ve all given our fair share of dirty looks or spoken an intentionally loud accusation toward the person having an ultra-loud phone conversation in the middle of the library. We didn’t say it to their face or anything, but we hope they heard.
This previous judgment has exploded into constant, fearful glances behind the shoulder — trying to see if someone is within your 6-foot bubble — or searing, pointed glares at that person wearing their mask below their nose. The majority of our faces may now be hidden, but our eyes speak unmistakeable truths: “I’m judging you.”
Alas, I really do miss the unprecedented talks with over-friendly, sometimes irritating strangers. It was a sign of normalcy and a tribute to our ability to linger at public locations. We waited in lines with impatience instead of unease, touched door knobs with our hands instead of sleeves and saw the grocery store as a chore instead of an outing.
Now, we can’t even smile at people we pass on the street. We have to settle for creepily bulging our eyes out of our heads in the hopes that they interpret that as friendliness, or resort to staring at our phones and pretending we didn’t see them at all. It’s only in a very strange world that we miss the old weirdness, and boy, would I kill for the old weird.
So, I can’t wait for the day I’m sitting directly next to a guy on an airplane, when masks are no longer necessary, and he begins to lecture me for the next four hours about the medicinal needs of his pet lizard while snacking on his tuna salad sandwich. This time, instead of putting headphones in and pretending to be asleep, I’ll say, “Bring it on,” and give him a smile he can actually see.