A Pandemic Primer
The mango lady taught me the most important lesson of the pandemic.
No, it wasn’t about the best masks to wear or the ideal hand sanitizer with the correct percentage of alcohol or how to Zoom with breakout rooms. It was something even more significant, something we all know but sometimes forget.
Entrance: The Supermarket
It was summertime and the supermarket scene was down pat: mask, wipes for the handle of the cart, alcohol spray for my hands, reusable and newly washed grocery bags, a safe distance from others. You get the drill.
I was on a quest for a mango. It had been a year since I had one and when I came across a recipe requiring a mango, I just had a yen to try it.
Meet the Mango Lady
I head to the fruit section of the produce aisle and spy the mangos. A large woman with three young children is standing there. I stay back at a safe distance watching her pick up mangos, squeeze them, pass them to what appeared to be her mother-in-law to test out, take them back, and repeat.
I was thinking it’s a good thing I can easily wash my mango when I eventually get one, and the skin does not get eaten so that is also good. Then I spy the littlest of the children, maybe about five years old, with her mask slipped down. It was too big for her face.
I was waiting for the child to be noticed, but the women were intent on the mangos and the other children were looking away. Without thinking and with my taking-care-of-children conditioning, I simply indicated, “Honey, your mask slipped down.”
Well, the large lady wheeled around and cursed me up and down.
“How dare you talk to children?” And bleep, bleep, and lots more bleeps.
“I only let her know her mask slipped down. I was trying to be helpful, for her own good,” I tell the woman.
More bleeping. “SHE HAS ASTHMA AND DOESN’T NEED TO WEAR A MASK!”
“I apologize,” I say softly while thinking that someone with asthma or any breathing issue actually should need to wear a mask.
“I said I apologize,” I repeat in the same soft tone.
“WELL, WHY ARE YOU STANDING THERE?” she yells at me.
“I need a mango and I am waiting until you’re done,” I matter-of-factly reply.
“WELL, I’M GOING TO STAND HERE ALL BLEEPING DAY!” she declares as she spreads her arms wide to protect the mangos from my presence.
OK. I think I’m done here.
So I turn around, leave the area, and go to look for a peach. The recipe will have to be tweaked.
Exit: The Lesson
It was survival through capitulation. I surrendered. Though her behavior was so wrong, I didn’t need to be right…or she may have decked me right there in the produce aisle. I am a petite person and there would be no contest. I could hear it now, “Clean-up on aisle one!”
You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em
Know when to fold ‘em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run…
And I folded ’em and walked away.
Clearly, the mango lady had more than mangos on her plate. I didn’t know her story but I imagined it was a lot like many people’s stories. This past year was full of so many challenges and so much set us on edge: the worry of the virus, divisive politics, economic woes, isolation.
Step aside Super Freak of the 1980s and make way for Super Kind of the 2020 variety, a new type of superhero with a simple motto.
Choose kind. Every time.
After all, you never really know the extent of someone’s tango with his or her mangos, pandemic or no pandemic.
And it’s not about being perfect. I recently lost my patience on the phone with the doctors’ office I have been going to for years as they needed my health insurance information all over again. After an exasperating repetition of what should have been in their computer system, I pulled my attitude up by its bootstraps and apologized for my impatience, sincerely wishing the receptionist a good day.
Super Kind also implies checking our imperfections and cutting others some slack…and that includes ourselves.
What story sticks with you from this past year? Learn about sharing your pandemic story here.