I’m thinking about ways isolation has chipped away at my social graces. Last week, I stepped into the elevator and met an adorable dog. I’ve never seen him before, and I was instantly charmed. He was kind of a beagle/Jack Russell/something, with the prettiest eyes! I immediately began talking to him through his people, two men I’ve never seen before, so I think they must be new/sort-of-new to the building. We parted as we came off the elevator, and only a couple of blocks later did I realize that I never actually spoke to the men, only to the dog. I didn’t introduce myself or try to interact with them in any way. I was just so focused on that sweet dog.
Today, I left for work and met the dog and his people again. I reintroduced myself to the dog and petted him for a minute or so, telling him how cute he is and how happy I was to see him again.
At least this time, I wished the men a nice day as I walked off.
I understand my focus on the dog — I love dogs — but usually I talk to the people, too. At least a little, even if it’s just to ask the dog’s name or breed. But I was so focused on that cute little guy that his people almost disappeared. I was happy to use them in my conversation with the dog, but talk? To them? Clearly not.
As I said above, I blame this on Covid, on the isolation of the last 2+ years. I haven’t had to maintain a regular practice in the social graces, haven’t had to remember how to behave with strangers. I’ve just puttered around tending to my own needs and maintaining a safe distance from everyone else.
This isn’t my behavior in every interaction with strangers these days. I still have some of my old niceties left, but my easier default definitely seems to be keeping interactions to a minimum. In my defense, I’ll add that neither of the dog’s people were wearing masks. I was wearing a mask. So maybe part of my behavior can be chalked up to not wanting their uncovered faces any closer to mine than they had to be? I’d lean into that as an excuse, but I know that’s not it, not the primary reason for my behavior. It’s really about me not being inclined to make nice with people.
I’m choosing to believe (hope against hope?) that all is not lost, that I’ll be able to relearn how to be “normal” with folks again, but it’s distressing to see how completely uninterested in connecting I am, how quickly I turn away from new people. One of my favorite things about living in this city has always been the random-and-fabulous encounters to be had with strangers. I don’t want that to be one more thing Covid has taken from me.
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