And I begin. I wash my hands so many times a day I no longer have any feeling in the fingers, but I follow the rules and continue to focus.

This habit was tattooed on my brain by the nuns, my mother and She, who took over from them.

Unlike many survivors of this pandemic, I suffer from a touch of OCD. When this horror broke out, I was the first to sign up for compliance 101. (I have a long record of this. The last hand I shook was Bobby Kennedy’s, and you know how that turned out.)

For example, consider visiting a store’s men’s room, a chamber of pandemic horrors, when a common error occurs.

You’ve touched the handle to two doors without thinking. What to do?

You pause. What, do you not touch?

I learned some tricks in this dilemma. I can’t share them with you here. You have to learn on your own. Focus.

And there’s cash. I stopped using cash long ago, but when I was recently handed a $10 bill, I froze.

It could have been given as a tip in a bar in Honolulu, then moved to San Francisco, through Las Vegas, where they’ve just seen the highest rate of infection in the nation, to Boston, over to East L.A, where it was found in the pocket of a corpse in the morgue.

I left it somewhere … as a tip.

Long ago, mid-pandemic, I resorted to using any one of the pile of credit cards I carry in my sanitized bag.

If on occasion, I have to hand one to a clerk, I only use the index finger and thumb to retrieve it, handling it like a deceased rodent. You should see the looks I get when I do that.

But I don’t wipe everything down the way I did when this madness swept into our lives. Focus fades. COVID? Delta? Alpha? Which one is it now? I forget. I’d better check it out. Focus.

Masks? I still wear one of my collection of 30 masks everywhere, even when it gets weird. And it does.

Now, as rules have eased, I find that I’m the only masked shopper remaining in my local market.

Keeping focus, I persist, even though I feel like a Sioux warrior in the 7th Calvary men’s room. Everyone stares at me and giggles.

Avoiding crowds grows harder. Look at these recent headlines:

Maine’s fairs, and some festivals, plan to return this summer and fall

Summer entertainment season returns to central Maine

Crowds turn up at final day of the Monmouth Fair

Humans, especially American humans, are addicted to crowds, from Black Fridays to car sales to every sporting event in the book.

This weekend, I scanned the award-winning photographer Michael G. Seamans’ shots of one such crowd at the opening of the 24th Maine International Film Festival.

Moviegoers take their seats July 9 for opening night of the Maine International Film Festival at the Waterville Opera House. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

I counted one mask and scant social distancing in the audience.

Was everyone there completely vaccinated? The lady to the right? The fella to your left? The young kids behind you? Really?

And the band plays on as COVID cases rise in 41 states and D.C.

Get your shots. Wear your masks and stop giggling at me. Focus.

Breaking News:

Maine CDC reports 22 new COVID-19 cases, no more deaths.

FOCUS!

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

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