So last week marked the first time since this pandemic started that my feet hit the inside of an airplane. And it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
I began looking for omens about how the trip would go as soon as we parked the car at the long-term lot that Karl favors. Once we got on the vehicle (not exactly a bus, tram, or wagon) to take us to the terminal and were on our way, I immediately started observing/judging the other riders. Not looking for clothing that should only be worn at home as I would normally do, but how they were dealing with the mask issue.
There were ten of us sharing the stuffy space—five white guys, one white woman, three men of color, and an Asian lady whose eyes above her mask indicated she was doing the exact same thing I was. All the men were properly masked, except the one guy with his below a particularly bulbous nose. Saving my patience for when it might truly be needed, I gave him a pass coated in pity for having such a proboscis.
The white woman was maskless, as you may have guessed, and clearly aware that the Asian lady and I were giving her side-eye. Perhaps the best thing about wearing a mask in public (other than helping to prevent the spread of disease) is that one’s face can’t be seen. With no one else paying attention, the three of us engaged in a triangulation of glances and glares.
Nothing untoward happened on the flight to California, and I was a bit disappointed about that. Then I was a bit more disappointed for being a bit disappointed in the first place.
Karl and I tagged on a couple of days in Los Angeles so that we could go to the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Upon arriving in La-La Land, I had more than a feeling that we weren’t in Texas anymore.
At the hotel, the restaurant, the theater, the museum, literally everywhere required not just a mask, but proof of vaccination. I was a bit excited as I knew this is the fertile ground from which spring viral videos, but no such luck. The dim excitement faded to the bit more disappointment cycle. Oh, well.
It wasn’t until we were at the Palm Springs airport waiting to board the plane to come home that there was one last chance to witness a “people acting crazy” moment. Karl and I had settled into an inside table at an airport terminal restaurant that included a large patio for dining alfresco. (How California is that?)
We were seated close enough that I could hear when a man came in, wearing an American flag mask, and requested an indoor table. When asked to show his proof of vaccination, he said he didn’t have it. The hostess then told him he could only be seated outside. I thought, “This is the moment! This is the moment!” But then he sort of shrugged and was led to the patio. Foiled again.
I told Karl what happened and was greeted with his usual uninterest in the people watching pastime that I so enjoy. Later, as we were going down the jetway to board the plane, I spotted American flag mask man ahead of us. What if he has the seat next to me on the flight? How good am I at throwing side-eye when seated next to someone?
As luck would have it, though, I saw that he was taking a seat in first class, while Karl and I were in coach. (We had exit row seats, which I like to think of as upper steerage.)
There was one little man I ran into out there who wasn’t wearing a mask. His name is Oscar, and I met him at the Academy Museum. I had met one of his brothers, also named Oscar, at a party years ago hosted by a fellow who had actually won his Oscar. But I didn’t dare touch him, as he didn’t belong to me.
Oscar at the museum is there to be touched, held, and experienced, if you will. For a small surcharge, like everything else in life. When I picked him up, I was expecting him to weigh more with all that he represents. Having seen, behind glass, the Oscar Sidney Poitier won in 1964 when he became the first black actor to win in the leading category, I felt certain that Oscar was heavier to lift.
The Oscar I held lacked context—an award without achievement, a power without purpose. I can’t think of a single member of Congress in Washington named Oscar, but more than a few of the not-named Oscar have more in common with my temporary friend than they should.
The one thing more that they ought to have in common with him is that they, too, should be unmasked.