Pandemic Diaries- OK Comma

Yesterday my husband and daughter went to the store. For donuts. If it makes you feel better to judge us for that, have at it. I told him to get a head of garlic while there. I forgot his knowledge of the produce section is a little rusty, as I typically cover grocery shopping. Again, if it makes you feel better, judge away. Anyhoo, he asked a fellow shopper where the garlic was, and was told he shouldn’t be buying garlic, because there’s a shortage.

OK Boomer. Wait, that doesn’t work here. This phenomenon isn’t age group specific.

OK Karen. Wait, that doesn’t work either. I have friends named Karen and they are lovely, and this phenomenon isn’t specific to nice white ladies either.

So, I’m going back to a book I read. Unfortunately, many years have passed. I no longer have the book because I had no choice but to pass it on, because it was so damn good. In Mountains Beyond Mountains, Dr. Paul Farmer frequently uses the word ‘comma,’ and when using it in conversation with those he works closely with; it’s understood that he’s calling someone an asshole without verbally calling them an asshole.

In our produce section scenario, Chris would respond to the fellow shopper shaming him about buying garlic by saying, “Oh. My bad. OK. Comma.”

But it would actually mean, “Oh. My bad. OK, asshole.”

I wish I had the book so I could share the excerpt where this is talked about. A quick google search didn’t provide what I was looking for, so this description will have to suffice. Should you happen to find yourself with some free time in the next few days, I recommend finding a copy.

The word comma is a large part of my inner dialog these days, which is funny, because there’s no reason I can’t just say, “OK, asshole,” if it’s within my inner dialog. Anyhoo. Lots of comma moments. Are those on the receiving end of my commas deserving? Probably not. I need to extend grace. I thankfully am finding myself more able to do that these days.

When I got an email from the local basketball association with ‘skills homework’ in the subject line, my inner response was, “Yes, basketball association board members, this is what the world needs right now. Honed basketball skills. The world is a complete shit show, but I will make sure junior keeps up his dribbling skills COMMA.”

I catch myself, though. While I tend to have strong aversions to types of people who sit on sports association boards, these people are doing their best. I will provide them the benefit of the doubt that they’re trying to be helpful, to provide some comfort and normalcy in days when both are severely lacking.

And even the protector of the garlic. I’m sure she’s doing her best too. I don’t know what’s on her particular plate right now, but I can’t blame her for being rattled.

Be kind to everyone you meet, for they are fighting battles you know nothing about.

Another paraphrase, but always a good thing to keep in mind. But, in these odd days, we actually do know about the battles being fought. Fear, isolation, uncertainty, resisting urges to hoard toilet paper, longing for normalcy.

I personally can add extreme ambivalence to the list. While I miss normal something fierce, I am finding some joy in having nothing scheduled. No practices, no carpools to figure out, not having to stay up after 11 to wait for my kid to get home, assigning my kids daily chores and having them actually do them, time to simmer soup on the stove for three hours, and time to just be. I’m not completely mad at it. And, yet, did I mention I miss normal?

So, my offerings today, to myself and you: Use of the word comma if needed. Grace to those who I find myself wanting to use it on. And, for my family. Soup. Posole Rojo to be exact.

Actual posole comes later. Be well, by friends.