Less than an hour into my shift, and I was already beside myself with frustration.
The mask reducing my oxygen intake, making my chest constrict and heart race.
This can’t be healthy!
The clear, hard plastic wall between me and the customers.
It’s more of a barrier for human connection than a virus!
Their masks, making it impossible for me to understand their requests.
In order to hear them, I have to lean forward and then they back up! This is impossible!
The gray-haired gentleman set his reusable bag on the counter, and it was my job to let him know about our store’s new policy.
“Sir, the store is now requesting that customers leave their bags at home. We’re not charging for paper bags anymore, so you don’t have to worry about that.”
Suddenly, he stood up taller, shoulders back like a soldier standing at attention, and rapid-fired questions at me. “Why…? Who says…? Is this a corporate decision…? Government…?”
Remember, it was almost impossible to discern his words through the plastic wall and masks that separated us; but I could see the fire in his eyes and feel his upset escalating, even through the plastic.
Finally, I broke the rules and pulled my mask below my chin, “Sir, I’m so sorry you’re upset. I really don’t know who made this rule, and I’m not sure there is any actual logic to it. It’s just what I’ve been asked to tell customers today.” I pleaded with him with my eyes for him to understand that I am just as upset about these rules as he was.
“Thank you, miss.” He pulled all of his upset away from me, smiled genuinely, and took his complaints to one of the managers standing by the door.
I took another deep-inhale dose of oxygen before resetting my mask and was cleaning furiously when an exasperated employee approached me, “What is wrong with people?!? Don’t they know that they can do anything they want at home, but they have to play by the rules of society when they leave the house?”
Something inside my chest broke at her words, and I kept cleaning and pulling for some more oxygen while she finished. Finally feeling grounded enough to speak without raising my voice, I looked up and responded, “Well. I guess there are some people, especially the older generation and military folks, who have been around long enough to see what happens when people stop questioning rules and begin blindly following them…”
She looked frozen in the moment.
Mouth obviously hanging open even behind the mask.
Ah crap, did I just break her?
I held her gaze long enough to let her know that I understood what was happening behind her eyes and that it was going to be okay.
I don’t want any debates about the necessity of masks or the details of this pandemic.
In fact, if you respond with any of that, I’ll delete the comment without response because that is not what this blog is about. I do have my opinions but I’m a keepin’ them to myself for now.
But here’s what I’m hoping this little story will do for people who are feeling incredibly upset and confused right now…
This story is meant to inspire readers to pay attention to the Black Cat glitches in the matrix we are all in right now.
[Note: If you’re unfamiliar with the Black Cat metaphor,
check out this clip from one of my all-time favorite movies, “The Matrix.”]
There are these things that are happening right now that just don’t quite make sense, right?
- Why are some physicians saying to shelter in place and social distance to keep others safe, while others are saying that this type of isolation weakens our immune systems?
- Why are some news channels reporting that “the rules” are coming from the federal government, while others are saying that it’s the state governors making the decisions?
- How is it possible that some organizations are reporting high numbers of deaths and warning of another wave, while others are reporting lower numbers and saying that thousands of people are showing markers for it but are asymptomatic?
- Why are some people saying that there are simple cures that we’ve had for a long time, while others are saying we need mass multiple vaccinations?
These are glitches in the matrix.
Things have been going along one way for a while, and many of us have all been going along with them.
But now, there are these little bits of information coming through various channels, and I don’t just mean the news channels.
- What about your intuitive channels?
- What about your body sense channels?
- What are you seeing, feeling, sensing?
- And are you seeing, feeling, and sensing it because it’s expected in this matrix, or are you really tuned in and registering things as they really are?
What in the world are you saying, Amanda?
This shit is crazy. Can’t you see that?
Okay, you’re right.
Let’s talk about another situation for a minute.
More than a decade ago, I asked a classroom full of thirteen-year-old’s who they thought should win the election that year.
Immediately, they cast their votes passionately: “Oh, I think _____ is going to win because the other guy is just a self-righteous jerk,” and “I think he will win because…”
But the whole point of this question was not to find out who they thought was going to win the election — it was to help them see where their ideas were coming from.
“So, why do you think he’s a self-righteous jerk? Did you see a debate, or…?” I asked.
Brow scrunched in confusion, that student answered, “No, I just heard my mom saying that while she was watching the debate in the other room.”
“Oh… okay. And you,” I pointed to another student, “You mentioned a military background. Which war did he serve in again?” I tapped my finger against my chin curiously.
Eyes wide, the thirteen-year-old sat still and quiet. “I… I… I don’t know, Mrs. Johnson. My dad was talking about his background yesterday with his friends.”
“Ah…” I nodded and smiled and moved through the room, asking deeper and deeper questions until all the kids sat quietly, looking quite upset.
“So, you know that I didn’t expect any of you to have those answers, right?” I asked.
Twenty-some confused faces looked back at me — frozen in the same way the other employee’s was just last week.
“You all sounded very confident and passionate about your initial answers…” I led.
“So, why were you confident then, but not feeling it now?”
One brave soul raised his hand, “I guess your questions made us realize that we are just taking what our parents say as the truth and we don’t really know the facts ourselves.”
I smiled and let that one simmer in the room.
That moment was the ENTIRE reason I had decided to become a teacher.
“Well, that’s interesting, right? I mean, I am definitely not suggesting that your parents are wrong about any of this, and I’m definitely not suggesting that you should go home and challenge them. Y’all hear me, right? I don’t want a bunch of phone calls tonight from parents who are upset cuz you went home and pushed all of their buttons.”
When everyone smiled and nodded, I knew that I didn’t have to worry about a barrage of calls during dinner with my family.
“What I am suggesting is that you begin to think and search for information yourself. You all are really smart, so maybe the next time you hear an adult mention a military background, get curious and ask them what information they have about the person. And if they shrug because they don’t know, then go to your computer and find the information yourself.”
Heads still nodding, I continued, “But here’s the really important part and the whole reason for this conversation today, especially as we begin looking at The American Revolution: What might happen if you don’t start thinking for yourselves, and questioning the stories and interpretations of facts that you are hearing, even from trusted and well-intentioned people?”
“What if they’re wrong?” The brave boy spoke up again.
“What do you mean?” I coaxed.
“Well, what if the adult doesn’t have the right facts, or all of them? If we just go along with what they say, then we also won’t have the right facts… or all of them…”
“Exactly. And an entire society of people who take other people’s stories and interpretations as true, without exploring them on their own, will surely find themselves in a dangerous position. Do you know why?”
“Well,” a girl in the front spoke up. “If we just believe everything we hear, then anyone can tell us anything, even if it ended up hurting us in the end.”
“You all are so darn smart, you know that?” I restrained myself from jumping up and down with glee as they all smiled back.
“So, what are you going to do from now on?”
The answers popcorned from the room:
“Ask more questions.”
“Research the facts on my own.”
“Think for myself.”
“Find the real answers.”
“And what are you not going to do?” I smiled and raised an eyebrow to give them a clue.
The answers popped again:
“Believe everything I hear.”
“Be disrespectful to our parents or anyone else.”
“Tell others they are wrong or stupid.”
We can learn a lot from these thirteen-year-olds today.
Whether we have been following blindly for decades and are just now starting to see those Black Cat glitches…
Or whether we’ve been carrying the torch for freedom and critical thinking and are seeing even more of those painful Black Cat glitches now…
We have our work cut out for us, my friends.
But we can learn to:
- Listen to our own intuition and senses.
- Ask more questions.
- Research the facts on our own.
- Think for ourselves.
- Find the real answers.
- Don’t believe everything we hear.
- Be respectful to others.
We can do this.
I believe in us.
Next up, “How do you know what’s true?”