One of my husband's first papers in English was to write about a pet peeve. His was traffic jams in supermarkets. He hated the congestion of store aisles due to people stopping to talk. Before the virus it had evolved into people walking along chatting or texting on cell phones.
Man had moved from gathering in the market, barbershop, tavern or water cooler to social media sites. It was satisfying to text, post or twit..
Teens would gather at their favorite drive-in, or cruise the square, hoping from car to car. That had also evoked into texting and tweeting. It is a driven need for communication that drive the frenzy of flying fingers.
But everything screeched to a stop. The phone and computer were the only means of reaching out. Gathering was limited, while restaurants and schools were closed. Human contact was at a bare minimum.
There was a huge oak tree between Jane and Havenhurst that was a gathering place. Everybody going to the mill stopped there. It was mandatory. There in its shade you caught up on the news, and gossip. It was an afternoon everyone looked forward to.
When the circuit riding preacher came to town life stopped. Everyone piled into the wagon and went to the brush arbor meeting. Singing, preaching and lunch on the grounds, more singing and preaching. Sometimes the women folk camped out, while the men went to take care of the farms and came back. This could last a week or so. Hungry for human contact this was a looked forward to event.
. In the little store where I go to pick up the vital C's ...coke, chips, chocolate, cupcakes and cheese, I found myself in a traffic jam happily listening to a grandmother and son talking. He worked
there. They apologized for blocking the isle. Soon, it was a three way conversation. Hidden behind mask, and social distanced we connected.
At the checkout it was the same, a four-way conversation. Nothing dark, sad or earth-shattering. Just easy banter. The main subject was dogs and how they are like children. Their habits drive us crazy. My littlest one takes her can of dog food and hides it in my shoe. If I don’t share enough of my lunch she retrieves it and eats. One lady had a Saint Bernard puppy that was jumping on everyone..
With the virus isolating everyone, social media no longer satisfies. There is a hunger to gather over a cup of coffee to chat, to see the living person behind the words. The smell of roasting turkey, pumpkin pie and dressing will not beckon from overflowing kitchens. The sadness of the virus will haunt the once happy homes. Zooming is a poor excuse for human contact, laughter and those unique smells wafting in the air. Gatherings are out, but in our hearts and minds they thrive. We are a social people, and we hunger for touch, even if its nothing more than a stranger in a store sharing a few words.
-Sandy Jordan is an area writer. She is also a founding editor of The Crowder Quill. She writes a weekly column, Bits and Pieces, for The Neosho Daily News.