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Relay: Good Connection in Power Outage

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 19:07

My therapist accepts only checks. I’m 25, so with this information, I search her on Venmo and email her to ask if she accepts only checks. She accepts only checks. The novel coronavirus, ever refracting normalcy, casts an eerie glow on the path ahead, along which this check will not be hand delivered as usual, but mailed.

Another oddity of the times: There is not a stamp to be found in my house. A rare corona-versight. Usually, the privilege — and I really mean the privilege, so just consider this — of living with your parents during a pandemic is what an amount — and I do mean amount, in fact — of foresight and preparation and pre-planning there is. Our battlements of Poland Spring water jugs are reinforced! Our spires of Bounty paper towels tower high! We run drills for successful capture of that Fresh Direct slot! There are, of course, the less-explicable mini bottles of prosecco in the fridge, but at least there are a dozen, then the power goes out and actually those bottles in the fridge are cause for great concern.

I colonially feel around in the dark, looking for stamps. Which is to say, “Mom, do we have any stamps?” You won’t believe what she says next.

“I don’t think so.” What kind of household!?

 The next day, on the way to get gasoline for the generator because there is no electricity and I need to buy stamps to mail a check with funds from my job at a print newspaper — really, the most modern thing about this is that I’m driving a car, and perhaps also, that with me in the car is my partner, Shea, who is staying with me and to whom I am not legally wedded, yet the whole town isn’t talking?

Now I am parked outside the Amagansett Post Office. Let me quickly mention that this comes after trying the East Hampton Post Office — after hours one day and then on Sunday, when it was closed all day, probably a pandemic thing. The U.S. Postal Service is not firing on all cylinders.

I also went to CVS for stamps twice and the I.G.A. once as well, hoping to just put the letter in that blue, curved box outside the post office, you know, with the handle that opens it, like a mouth! But, no, I had to wait on line to buy a single stamp.

An older gentleman is waiting outside the post office. Don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say it, I think. I hear myself say it anyway. “Are you waiting in line?”

“No, I’m waiting for a bus,” he says mischievously. This is a good joke that makes him seem charming by making what I said seem stupid. I wait and then weasel my way into the post office.

Since starting work at The Star this spring, it’s been remote, deep within the maze of Poland Spring and Bounty. Although I had previously met people when I interned as a teenager, I knew our deputy managing editor, Chrissy Sampson, Christine Sampson to you, reader, only over Zoom, but came to virtually adore her all the same.

Maybe it’s the fumes from the gasoline jug in the car, cleverly my first stop, but in the post office there now stands: me, the man with the jokes, and a masked woman who is saying something in Chrissy’s voice as I walk in the door behind her. Then it’s silent. But an hour since our most recent text exchange, I write, “Are you at the post office?” The woman’s phone in front of me dings. Chrissy turns around and we meet!

The man asks what’s going on and how we recognize each other if we’re strangers. We explain Zoom meetings and Chrissy thanks him for buying the copy of The Star that he’s holding. He replies, “Of course” in a way that makes what Chrissy said seem stupid. It is a great kindness to dismiss gratitude as if the reason for thanks is plain-as-the-nose, like it costs a person nothing to pay attention. What if ‘twas ever thus we all wrote checks in the dark, sloshed gasoline over the side of the jug, waited in line, introduced ourselves to strangers, and then bought the paper to pay attention to everyone else doing just the same. The good old-fashioned way.

Bella Lewis is a reporter at The Star.

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