Friday was a milestone. We did it. My husband and I went out for dinner at a restaurant! This was the grand finale to my husband’s 50th birthday.
I was a reluctant diner, but the restaurant assured they were operating at 50% capacity. We were directed to call from the parking lot upon our arrival for our 6 o’clock reservation and we’d be allowed in when our table was ready, no waiting in the lobby. Although I was reassured by these measures, as a person at high risk for complications if infected with coronavirus, apprehension was my primary sentiment.
Based on the number of cars out front, I was skeptical that they were only serving 50% of capacity, but the scent of meat cooking over Tamarack outweighed my doubt. When I phoned, they were ready for us immediately. Upon entering, the hostess greeted us, “Welcome! Would you like your server to wear a mask or not?”
As soon as I recovered from the surprise of customers being in charge of PPE use, I said, “Yes.” My husband indicated he didn’t think it was necessary, and therein lies the tension we’re going to be dealing with for at least the next couple of months.
Prior to our outing, while discussing my anxiety regarding the approaching event, I specifically requested my husband’s support for however I needed to deal with being in public. So when he indicated we didn’t really need the waiter to mask up, I shot him the evil eye. After nearly three decades of marriage, he reads the evil eye very quickly and knows what will follow if I am put in a position to defend my stance. The hostess effectively read our nonverbal exchange and said, “Really, it’s no problem,” and led us to our table.
Because it’s a steakhouse, the servers had bandanas around their necks and needed only to pull the cloth up over mouth and nose. There were a couple other groups in our section who had waiters using their face coverings, but the majority did not. There were definitely many empty tables or space where tables had been. There was way more than six feet between us and the nearest diners.
Our steaks and lobster tails were marvelous! We don’t typically order so extravagantly; but we were celebrating my husband’s half-century birthday as well as our first meal in a restaurant for a few months, so we splurged.
On the drive home, I reminded my spouse that he had agreed to support me in whatever way I needed as we navigate our way forward. He acknowledged he should not have said anything when I chose for our server to wear a mask. I let him know that if I have to justify my desire for protective measures, I’ll simply stay home.
In 2009, I had my own individual medical crisis. Both lungs were filling with fluid, and nodules were seen at the bottom of my lungs. I had a fever of 103-104 degrees for days, not responding to IV antibiotics. My organs were shutting down. My husband had taken me to the hospital because my lips were blue, and the physician opined that I most likely wouldn’t have made it through the night if I hadn’t come into the ER. A lung biopsy failed to provide useful information, but did require several days with a chest tube and, eventually, serious scar adhesions. Follow-up visits to the pulmonologist resulted in a diagnosis of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which only bothers me now when we have severely smoke-filled air from forest fires.
I will do whatever it takes, within my control, to avoid becoming infected and ill. As others move forward through the phases of reopening, I will remain under directions to stay home unless necessary. Our dinner date was out of my comfort zone for sure, and only the milestone birthday propelled me into the unknown.
Unfortunately, I think the mask/no mask divide is merely an indicator of the great uncertainty that lies ahead as we slowly emerge from pandemic precautions over the next several months. The differences in protective measures will not only lay bare the variety of state responses, but many a house divided.