Just a Happy Face...

As many of you unfrench are globe explorers like me, I know when I make the following statement, you will get it. You must adapt and overcome whatever your experience throws at you. There is no room for complaining when you are 7000 km across oceans and you chose to come here. Currently, we all have a common enemy. There is no discrimination in the choosing of its victims. It is an equal opportunity serial killer. Its name is Corona and it is not a beer.

This stalker attaches itself to unsuspecting victims and they unwittingly sneeze, cough, or drool it out on to equally innocent inanimate objects or to its ideal target, another living breathing host. Small piece of advice, don’t watch World War Z on a streaming service for at least 6 months. No offence Brad Pitt, but not many movies can freak me out at the moment. WWZ … completely hit me with both barrels, well played.

Onwards… My life history is varied and well lived. I have enough stories to span at least ten seasons of “She did What?!?!” On TV. I have been in some odd fox hole type places with many soldiers and battled many enemies with my camera glued to my face. This pandemic is a new one, but as with all of us who have faced tragic circumstances, there comes a moment of peace and acceptance to the situation. With that moment comes an odd, almost cartoon sense of Wile E Coyote humour. Forgive the North American reference, but if you google videos of Wile E Coyote, you will understand gallows humour better. First responders, Emergency room personnel, and prison guards, often can make these kinds of jokes to help dispel the tension of the moment. It is how they cope with situations the general public often could never comprehend. I believe it helps the mind to manage traumatic experiences. I feel deeply for our front line personnel world wide right now. They currently risk their lives so that we don’t. We can stay safe at home, cocooned in front of our devices, debating the political landscape. Armchair quarterbacking the world leaders, as they fumble and right themselves in this tragic avalanche of pandemic information. Or, we bury our heads in the endless quicksand of streaming movies and tv shows until the chaos outside of our doors is over. Only a handful of us will brave the tide of this virus, to stand in front of the road block, checking papers, and listening to excuse after excuse from naysayers, who defy the lockdowns for sport or stupidity.

After all my training and experience, the one thing I can never seem to leave behind is the laughter in very tense situations. I have made people very uncomfortable with only observant humour as my weapon. 14 days of forced isolation, add on an extra 7 before that because I made and educated guess about this killer. One tends to get a little punchy without close human contact. I decided today was a good day to venture out for a few more supplies, seeing as quarantine is extended to April 15. I predict it will be extended to April 30 as they are trying to play it safe and not have citizens lose hope. This is wise management.

As I prepared for my short 400m journey, it almost felt like I was preparing for an expedition to Antarctica. No word of a lie, I had an opportunity to take an expedition to the only continent not facing a quarantine. I would be there right now, if not for my silly obsession to write screenplays at home instead. Should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque. (Google bugs bunny). Never mind, so I’m getting my grocery bags, wrap my scarf around my neck and just under my nose. Put attestation for permission to go on specific journey, proper ID, apartment lease etc. in my coat sleeve so its at hand. Give dog treats to chew while Im gone. Put clown nose in my pocket, gloves in the other pocket, and carefully remove outside shoes from protective plastic bag and put on the feet delicately, while wearing a plastic gloves. Not unlike where one were to be slipping in to a matching set of anti personnel mines as footwear to check if they fit your feet. Remove plastic gloves to previously mentioned plastic shoe bag. Take keys, put freshly washed gloves on hands, open door, close and lock door, firmly place clown nose on face, using only hand that has not touched the key or the doors. There should be an olympic category for style here.

Waaaaaiiiittt a minute. Did she just say clown nose? What? I bet you went back to read that didn’t you?

Here is where my story comes together. The grocery clerks have to work, they are essential to our survival. People are tense and at the verge of tears. If not from the virus hitting too close to home, maybe even from having little to no human contact for a few weeks so far, and the prospect of a few more is daunting. I imagine as the grocery store staff not only have no choice but to put their lives at the forefront to keep the supply chains going forward. They are also isolated from their families, and friends in order to serve us. The least we can do is bring them a little cheer to help them push through their 10 hour days. My tiny bit of gratitude is not expensive, requires no contact, and no assistance. I walk the empty streets to the market with my clown nose firmly in place. As I approach the security guard, his job is to be stern looking and taciturn, but he can not help himself but smile. I look completely serious, like nothing is amiss. He motions me forward and says thank you for that. I ascend the stairs into the supermarche section and walk through the fresh veggies. It is quiet today. Only a few of us brave the peak of the pandemic to restock. Those that notice the nose do a double take. Most quietly smile to themselves, some who are particularly humourless smile despite themselves, and I send them a conspiratorial wink. They can not help themselves, they smile and nod in agreement. I pass the young man carefully restocking the cooler in the next isle. He is at first alarmed, and then laughing out loud. He calls the nose brilliant and begins to hum quietly while he works. Some of the ladies I pass are in such a hurry they don’t see me. Until they see someone in front of them looking past them at me and start to laugh. They look back half smiling unsure of what they will see and when their eyes finally rest on my nose, they realise they walked right past and didn’t notice. They all smile. As I approach the checkout, I try to act normal, whatever that might be. The clerk is clearly entertained, she tries desperately to act normal too but she can’t stop giggling while trying to do her job. By the time I have paid and packed my bags, the entire checkout area is buzzing with happy chatter, at a safe distance. Before it was quiet and tense. The chatter was a low dignified murmur. Mission accomplished.

For those of you that don’t know. I am an introvert. I am only bossy and extroverted when I have my camera in my hands, and although I didn’t realise it until this very moment, in disaster situations, I tend to take control and my training kicks in. Although I would volunteer my assistance to the police for an extra pair of hands here in Antibes. I know we used to tell people like me, the best way they can help is by just staying home. You never know what you are capable of until the moment calls you to act. Apparently my calling these days is to act the clown.

Jusqu'à ce que nous nous revoyions.


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