Along for the Rye’d
Putting Those Moments Behind Us
By Annabel Monaghan
Remember that office Christmas party? The one where the drinks were free, and you ended up teaching your whole department how to do the Macarena? At one point you fell on the dance floor and then spent the rest of the night trying to convince people you weren’t blotto. Towards the end, you mistook the stairwell for the bathroom and happened upon your boss and that lady from Human Resources in a compromising position. Anyone remember this besides me?
What I remember most clearly was Monday morning. Everyone sort of looked around at each other’s shoes, avoiding any eye contact that would make our cheeks flush with embarrassment. We’d seen another side of each other, and it wasn’t pretty. We had a long road ahead of us to get back to a place of respect and dignity, but it was hard to imagine we’d ever un-see what we’d seen. It’s possible that the boss didn’t show up at all that day.
If you’re wondering where I’m going with this, I’ve been thinking that, collectively, we are headed toward the most awkward Monday morning of all time. When this pandemic crisis is resolved, and I need to think it will be, we are all going to emerge from our homes and engage with one another closeup and face to face. We’ll be standing just one foot apart with no place to hide from what we’ve become.
I imagine a 2021 job interview that goes like this: “Well, from your résumé, you seem like a good fit. But wait, aren’t you that guy with the painted face and horned hat that stormed the Capitol?” “Well, yes,” the applicant will reply with his newly cut hair and freshly washed face, “I was having a moment.”
We’ve all had a moment. We are cooped up and afraid. We’re fat from banana bread and cross-eyed from Netflix. For nearly a year, we’ve been seething in front of our computers reading sensationalized news. We eyeball our unmasked neighbors and maybe snap a few photos to text to our spouses. There’s a woman who scowls at me for walking my dog on the wrong side of the street, and it makes me think how unfortunate it is that a masked face hides a smile but not a scowl. I want to explain to her that I am not in charge of what side of the street my dog chooses; he is my master. My son says I’m incapable of training a dog because I have low Qi. I want to tell her this partly because I think it’s funny, but mainly because I hope she’ll explain to me what low Qi is. I mourn the conversation we might have had as she storms off, presumably muttering under her mask.
Ironically, I work up my best scowl for people who jog on the wrong side of street. If they don’t have a dog with them, they should know better. As they whiz past me, my forehead becomes the Grand Canyon of Judgment, and there is no mistaking my wrath. What’s going to happen when our unmasked faces pass each other in a post-Covid world? We are going to serve on committees together, we’re going to ask each other for favors. Our children are going to become best friends. I imagine that first day back on the playground or the train platform. “Hey, aren’t you that guy who posted photos of my kid on social media?” someone will ask. And that someone will have to say, “Yeah, sorry, I was a little cooped up. I was having a moment.”