July 2, 2020:

Parking lot, my local grocery store. I'm waiting in one of four curbside pickup spaces for my order to be delivered. I've got the tail hatch of my Subaru open for the delivery, and because the employee handling the job, although masked, will necessarily exhale inside my vehicle I have all the windows down for ventilation. I'm wearing a KN95 over an N95: to be any better masked I'd need a hazmat suit. I've chosen this slot for distancing: there are empties on both sides, including several that are more than two slots away. It should be straightforward for another shopper to maintain separation while waiting for their pickup.

Black Porsche Carrera, inexpertly driven, struggles with multiple turns and reversals to settle into the curbside slot next to mine. I find this intensely irritating. It's not literally irritation, though. It's really alarm. While hundreds of thousands are dying and there are spaces free where there'd be distance between us, this fool chooses to cozy up beside me. I roll up the windows in case he exhales.

He's quite elderly, seemingly struggling to control his movements. Masked, with a good-quality surgical mask not a single-layer cloth bandana, and he has it correctly positioned for what appears to be a solid fit. But he's confused regarding the parking space he's chosen. He's not waiting for a pickup, he's slowly and with effort walking toward the store.

Except, he's not. He turns toward me to call out, "Hey your rear hatch is open, want me to close it for you?" I call back, "No, thank you." He says, "I said your hatch is open, shall I close it?" I respond as loudly as I can, "No!" "Okay,", he says, and closes the hatch.

Now I'm struggling. I realize he's trying to be neighborly, and he doesn't hear well, and he doesn't understand why I'm parked where I am because he hasn't read the signs and may not know of the curbside pickup program to begin with. But now he's placed me in admittedly minimal but totally unnecessary risk, undoing my careful positioning designed to avoid even minute contact. I'm no longer irritated-but-actually-alarmed. I'm now angry-bordering-on-furious-but-actually-frightened. I'm struggling not to explode, although I know his intentions are generous.

He sees me exit the car and instead of stepping away he steps toward me. I waive him off, angrily. "I said 'No!'", I say as loud as I can without screaming. What I'm thinking to myself is You fuck fucking fuck motherfucking fuck, get your fucking hands off my fucking car and get the fucking fuck out of my face. But he truly is kindly and he truly does mean well. "Oh I thought you said 'Yes'," he says. "I'm waiting for a delivery," I tell him, pointing to the signs. He doesn't understand, doesn't look at the signs, isn't respecting social distancing, but he's friendly and he was just trying to be helpful. My head's exploding but I hold my tongue. He waves goodbye and as I re-open the hatch our encounter ends.

In isolation, this encounter works fairly well for the Existentialist reading. Inability to communicate much less achieve contact, increasing rather than diminishing the distance between individuals. Where the outcome is anger, exasperation, and fear.

As part of the whole, it exemplifies the all-too-human fight-or-flight response, where my lizard brain wanted me to go into full-on tirade, but fortunately my higher functions were able to intervene.

Still. People die through the carelessness of others. While I admire this fellow for fighting the good fight to remain independent through advancing age, — here handling his own grocery run, and good on 'im — I'm not at all down with his inability to be cognizant of his surroundings, or of the contexts of his decisions.