As RealityChek regulars know, I’ve resisted the temptation to make this blog about me personally, or about my family and friends, except when personal experiences shed light on some broader subject or controversy. Last Thursday alone, though, produced two of those exceptional situations, at least as I interpret them. And both have to do with the problems and pressures created by the sweeping anti-CCP Virus regulations still in force in so many states and localities.
In the interests of fairness, I need to point out that (just in case many of you don’t already realize) that for some time I’ve viewed the lockdowns and shutdowns imposed throughout the country way too all-encompassing. As I’ve written, although excessive caution was understandable and even necessary early during the pandemic, since then, governments should have had enough learning ability to recognize (a) that restrictions were best focused on the most vulnerable segments of the population, and (b) that the comprehensive nature of the lockdowns and shutdowns were becoming a cure whose economic costs were comparably serious to the disease, and were creating their own major public health dangers to boot. (See, e.g., here.)
Even so, I wasn’t exactly loaded for bear Thursday when I left my house in the D.C.-area Maryland suburb where live to walk the three blocks to the local weekly farmer’s market. My town, Riverdale Park, is getting way too woke for my tastes – including a decision to let illegal aliens vote in local elections if they’re all of 16 years old and can present some kind of evidence that they’ve resided in the area for a grand total of 45 days. But filled with woke characters and illegals as the market tends to be, I especially look forward to going because the produce and specialty items offered tend to be excellent values, and because most of the vendors (who don’t seem to be locals) are easy, informative, and sometimes even fun to deal with. Moreover during this Virus Era, the market is a badly needed opportunity for in-person human contact, and an equally cherished reminder of pre-Virus normality.
Because of state and county social distancing requirements, entry onto the market grounds is regulated (by volunteer staff who deserve admiration for their civic-mindedess), so customers need to stand in line six feet apart until the proper density is achieved. I’m fine with that, as well as with the obligatory mask-wearing. What I was not the least bit fine with was what happened once I began shopping for some vegetables, and specifically began inspecting the tomatoes for bruising and other problems.
Behind me, from the line of customers still waiting to get in, came the demand “Hey! Stop touching all those tomatoes!” For a moment, I could scarcely imagine that I was the object of this fellow’s ire, but upon realizing I was the sole tomato shopper at the moment, turned around and saw him again shout something like, “Keep your hands off the tomatoes!”
Still in partial disbelief, rather than respond with something like “Mind your own business” or something more emphatic, I simply asked him “How else am I going to see if they’re OK or not?” To which he replied, (seriously) “I’m sure the fine people who run this stand wouldn’t offer us bad produce.” I agree, by the way, that the vendors are fine people. But frankly, it’s bad enough that the masks greatly complicate the essential task of sniffing fruit (including tomatoes) to make sure that they’re ripe. Now it’s verboten to turn them upside down to make sure they’ve survived their trip from the fields in reasonable shape?
With my bewilderment not entirely having faded, but recognizing that this late-40s-something white male wearing a roughly color coordinated baby blue baseball cap, mask, and T-shirt wasn’t going to do anything to stop my tomato inspection, I decided to create a teachable moment of the incident. So when I was finished (and had chosen some genuine beauties that were not as banged up, like some of their counterparts), turned around and advised him, “It’s called the eye test. Think about it.” (Of course, it’s also the “feel test.”)
As is often the case, I spent the next half hour or so going coming up in my mind with better, and even genuinely devastating, rejoinders. (E.g., “Ever heard of washing produce?” “Ever think that I might have tested positive?” “Can I see your badge?”) But as routine as these “if only” exercises have become for me, I actually do regret not telling him to buzz off.
That’s partly because there were no “Don’t touch the merchandise” signs posted and I was obeying all the other rules. It’s mainly, however, because even the best such detailed, substance-specific points obscure how his behavior perfectly epitomized the kind of arrogant, self-righteous busy-body impulses that so many self-styled progressives are flaunting now that the pandemic has ostensibly validated their longstanding determination to impose sweeping controls over all realms of human behavior – especially for the good of those less enlightened of course.
While I was steaming and reenacting on my walk home, I quickly found myself in another possible encounter with this kind of progressive Virus Authoritarianism. At least that’s how I interpreted it. The normally busier of the two streets on my way home (not that it’s usually very busy) was absolutely devoid of people. Until a block ahead of me another pedestrian appeared. Because he was wearing a back-pack I assumed he was a student of some kind, and once he came close enough, I also saw he was masked. I wasn’t – once I left the crowded market area, I removed mine, and I was out-of-doors with no one near me, so why endure the discomfort?
In any event, this other pedestrian wore the covering even though there was no one in sight from where he was coming, and there was no one behind me, either. That’s his right, of course, and to maintain social distancing, I conspicuously swerved to my right as he approached. He moved a little to his right, and although I didn’t recognize him, I was all set to say “Hi” by way of nodding my head or giving a little wave of my hand because that’s what social-butterfly-me does in these situations. But when I saw how resolutely he was staring straight ahead, seemingly set on avoiding eye contact, I concluded that a friendly gesture wouldn’t be reciprocated. And it seemed reasonable to assume that he was very upset that I wasn’t masked – despite the fact that, as I just mentioned, the street was otherwise empty.
Even if he wasn’t, I couldn’t help but wonder why on earth he was masked in the first place. No supposedly settled or any other kind of science has deemed masks necessary in these kind of state-of-nature circumstances, where distancing couldn’t be easier. Was he aggressively virtue-signaling, like Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden seems to have in comparable situations? But to a non-existent (except for me) audience?
But as I implied, his attitude could have been just my imagination. Maybe virus irritableness is getting to me. More evidence may come my way when I visit the market this coming Thursday. And when my hands will be all over the produce again.