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#COVIDCatLady, Day 84

About a week ago, I had an encounter on the metro. To get to my office at Shanghai Disney Resort, it’s a 5-minute e-scooter ride, an hour on the metro, and then a bus to get to the building where we make magic and I type. The subway trains are about as crowded as it was before the pandemic now, masks are absolutely required, and your temperature is checked before you pass the ticket turnstiles, which isn’t that much of an inconvenience on top of the regular X-ray machine that you’re also required to drop your bag in. On my way home, a migrant worker was standing next to my seat and apparently peering at my phone. I was having a furious text chat session and typing away in English. “You’re not typing in Chinese?” He asked, completely undeterred by my giant headphones. I looked up to see a big grin that crinkled his face mask. I wonder quickly how much he’s had to reuse the same one just to get around. I said “no, I’m typing in English.” And he grinned bigger, like I just said the funniest, oddest thing. At this point his friends started chastising him good-naturedly, wearing similarly dirt-splattered pants, “how about you leave her alone? You’re being an idiot.” “But she’s not typing in Chinese.” I laughed, “no, but I studied very hard for a long time! “ “Normally,” if someone had looked at my phone while I was texting and spoke to me through my headphones, I would have ignored them. Maybe it was the mood I was in. Maybe it was his mask-crinkling grin. Or maybe... I’m reminded of a Buddhist quote.

Where would I find enough leather To cover the entire surface of the earth? But with leather soles beneath my feet, It’s as if the whole world has been covered. —Shantideva

Maybe I was more comfortable interacting with him because our faces were both covered and I felt safe. Maybe I’d grown more appreciative of random social interactions since quarantine and lockdown. Maybe it was just nice not to have to worry about either of our bad breath. Maybe it was the fact that English was clearly not decipherable to him so my privacy wasn’t at all violated by his bemused curiosity. Maybe. Probably all of the above. How’s that for “the new normal”?


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