‘I’m Not the Same Person…’ What a Difference a Year Makes
By John Addyman
My tummy is sticking out more. Lots more.
I have learned that I can’t look at a package of Oreos with the same indifference I once had.
A year ago, if I brought a package of Oreos into the house, my wife would demand that I hide them. “If you don’t, I’ll eat them,” she said.
Problem is, if I bring them home today, I have to hide them from me.
Not in my whole life have I sat down with my morning tea and gone half-way through a whole package of Oreos, then finished them off with my evening glass of milk … until last week.
And it I did it twice.
Do you know the feeling of walking around the house with a lot of things on your mind and you slowly find yourself standing in the middle of a room asking, “What am I doing here?”
I now have the same problem in the supermarket. I walk around with stuff in my basket until I find that I’ve stopped and I don’t know why. I look around. “What did I forget?” I ask myself, checking my shopping list. I’ve got everything I came in for.
Then I focus on what’s in front of me on the shelves.
And they’re singing my name. The double-stuff ones make music decidedly on the angelic side. The chocolate-filled double-stuffed have a baser, jazz feel. The peppermint Christmas Oreos are singing about decking the halls and eating lots of cookies.
On a Sunday afternoon, there I was, listening to the music, when I realized a woman was standing right behind me, very close. Peeking around me. It wasn’t my wife.
“Please don’t move,” she told me so softly no one else could hear. “If you don’t move, I won’t reach out and load my basket with Oreos.”
A kindred sufferer.
“Suppose I walk slowly down the aisle,” I suggested. “You could stand behind me until we’re out of earshot.”
“You hear them, too??!!!” she said, utter shock and misery in her voice.
“Which ones are you listening to?” I asked.
“The double-stuffed,” she said. “Actually, I’m trying NOT to listen to them.”
“Let’s go. If we slide along this aisle together, we can do it,” I said encouragingly. “We can escape together.”
And we did. At the end of the aisle, with the cookies no longer in sight, we were free … as long as we didn’t unexplainedly drift back to the aisle again before leaving the store.
Who’s to blame
I blame all of this circumstance on 2020. It has been one crummy year, and the last 365 days have changed my behavior in other ways.
For instance, there are my sandals, I have special scuffs on the outside where I have stopped quickly, pivoted, and turned around to retrace my steps — and I’ve done it often enough that those scuffs have shown up. Why? Because those scuffs demonstrate that I’ve been on my way into someplace and had to do a U-turn in a parking lot to go back to the car to get my facemask.
Worse yet is the humiliation of going into a store, blowing right past the sign that says, “No mask, no entry,” and suddenly realizing that the only naked face in the place belongs to you.
Normally when this happened, I’d immediately apologize to anyone who was about to tsk-tsk me. “I left my mask in the car. I’m going to run out and get it.”
And, of course, all those good people would say to themselves, “Sure, buddy.”
I would run out to the car, get a mask, and run back into the store properly attired.
I developed this skill after much trial, error and incidences of intense embarrassment. In my car I now have five masks — two hung around the shift knob, one in the door storage, one in the glove compartment, and the last one sitting on the back seat.
Another habit that changed this year was how my wife and I watch TV — especially CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. I used to lie on the couch and my wife would be in her reading chair with a book and a blanket.
In 2020, our habits changed.
We made it a point to leave our shoes in another room so we wouldn’t be tempted to throw them at the television. And my wife only brings paperback books in to read now — another safety precaution.
My tummy is sticking out more. Lots more. I have learned that I can’t look at a package of Oreos with the same indifference I once had.
I find I’m different in person on the street, too. When I have my mask on and someone walking toward me has his or her mask on, I spend a lot of time staring — trying to figure out who this person is. If they have a mask on, and perhaps sunglasses, I’m lost and I’m hoping the other person doesn’t say, “Hi, John!”
When they do, the first thing I mutter is, “Oh, lord — who the heck is that?”
A lot of times, when the person sees my confusion, he or she will start taking things off. The glasses come first, then the mask, and usually I then know who I’m talking to. How they know me with my mask on … well, that I haven’t that figured out yet because, as I’ve admitted, my tummy is a lot bigger than it used to be and I don’t look like my 2019 slimmer self.
Then another clumsy thing takes place. I used to automatically start to shake hands, but you can’t do that anymore unless we’re both immediately ready to douse one another with hand sanitizer.
So, we start to approach one another with our elbows held out like two knights riding toward a joust with our lances, ready to battle. What erupts is a funny kind of dance toward tapping elbows, which aliens in outer space are probably studying as courting rituals.
You and I are going to forget all the stuff — and a whole lot of silly 2020 stuff — pretty quickly. But the internet won’t forget and a generation to come is going to look at videos and images of 2020 and wonder what the heck we were doing.
I have some advice to help you prepare for that eventuality: buy a package of Oreos and put them someplace safe.