Marolt: A cup of tea for what ails us
He gave me a big hug. This happened at what had been, up to this point, an appropriately socially distanced event in Tot Lot park, formerly know as Armstrong’s Pig Pen back in the day. But, never mind the name change now; that’s a long story involving retaliatory measures taken for a well-intentioned Parks and Recreation Department gesture, better left for slouching on barstools reminiscing over a couple of cold ones.
For the present, the aforementioned embrace was initiated by a young man whom I hadn’t seen in a long time, partly because he had been living thousands of miles away and partly because of the great COVID-19 lockdown. Although I was overjoyed to see him, in a moment of clarity I would have bounced away and reminded him of the distancing rules mandated for our safety, but I’d had a beer and a barrier to that clarity had been raised sip by sip. In addition, a remarkable sunset was blooming above the dairy cow-spotted ski slopes of Buttermilk. I thought, “What the heck? It’s such a beautiful evening that he probably doesn’t have the virus.” I hugged him back. That’s the way booze paves the rocky road veering off the beaten path of logical thinking.
It’s not like our gathering in the park was a brazen bacchanalia of blatant disregard, either. It started as a group of 10, a family event, each isolation group toting separate picnic baskets and blankets with a bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer. At first we were good. Everyone wore masks. We conversed from at least 6 feet away. Then things got better.
There were other groups. At first we waved, since smiling does no good from beneath a bandit’s bandana. Then, after a taste or two of wine, those other groups seemed so far away and it seemed so much longer since we had seen them. Some of ours strayed about to see how they were doing, and some of theirs wandered our way. Before anyone realized, the thing became a one small park, one big family gathering. The noise level rose and people stepped a little closer to hear each other since masks muffle sounds and prevent lip reading. The more we sipped, the more we sipped and the up and down maneuvering of masks to accomplish this become burdensome. Some eventually let them drop to protect only their chins.
I don’t know if it is scientifically proven, but experience screams drinking causes temporary hearing impairment. Social distancing, therefore, has an inverse relationship with blood-alcohol levels. We have all observed that drunks tend to get in our faces and slurring words is almost always accompanied by small, sometimes larger, droplets of spittle sprinkling any conversation with an inebriated fellow.
I’m just going to say it: I think alcohol might be our biggest impairment to reopening our local economy. Without it, I think we could safely open bars and restaurants, maybe even stage a few medium-size events. But, haha, what are restaurants, bars and medium-size events without a little hootch to get the fun flowing?
It is well known that alcohol’s greatest power is persuasion. Think of the bad things we do when we’re drinking that we would never consider when sober. Are you going to make me list them here? Because I will if you want me to. No? That’s what I thought. I will leave it to you and the buried treasure of cringe-worthy memories to come to resolution. Suffice it to say that we have all accomplished monumental collapses of sound judgment while drinking, oftentimes not even to the point of inebriation.
So, on top of all the bad stuff booze tempts us to do, now we have to worry about it persuading us to do things that for our entire lifetimes have been considered good and nice, like shaking hands, high-fiving, hugging friends at a picnic, perhaps even licking our fingers while tossing a Frisbee. Alcohol, which has always had the upper hand in human social interaction, has been transformed by COVID-19 into an octopus with opposing fingers and thumbs attached to the end of each tentacle ready to snatch our brains and tuck them into our back pockets until morning. Go ahead and add that to the growing list of newly discovered symptoms of this pernicious pathogen.
As history has demonstrated, prohibition won’t work. In as much, it seems our choice may well be continue imbibing in the isolated comfort of our homes or limiting social gatherings to tea parties.
Roger Marolt doubts he will contract the coronavirus while practicing social sobering. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The pandemic continues to place enormous stress on families and relationships — especially for those facing financial and medical hardships.