Incognito (Masked) in the Hood

For those of my regular readers, I have long lived in an area of Houston called the Meyerland/Bellaire area of the city. It is a suburban stretch of beautiful tree-lined streets and majestic single homes and has great schools zoned to it. Just recently, it became more flood-prone than normal, but with improvements, we are hoping that our area of town continues to thrive, as there is no place quite like it.

The way I describe it to other people is that it is like living in a village of the old times, where everyone knows everyone and you have more friends and acquaintances in a few square miles than anyone could ever hope to have. I have built my life on the convenience of having banking, hairdresser, synagogue, JCC, Yoga studio, food stores, department stores, and even work, in this area of town. It is rare that I need to drive more than five miles to anything in my normal weekly routine.

Normally, I am a very social human, very friendly and outgoing. So bumping into acquaintances for a quick trip to the pharmacy or food store was always a welcome given. My motto was “never leave home without lipstick and sunglasses” as I always need to be looking more appropriate than the total schlub one can be while hanging around the home.

As we all know, COVID-19 has changed our normal habits, and from March through July, I barely left my home. My husband did our shopping and I worked remotely – long hours. I truly was hibernating and my hair got long and wild, and I was accustomed to wearing no makeup, no lipstick, and wearing sloppy workout shorts and tees with no bra.

I missed people but Zoom and face time helped me restore some sanity on the social needs front. Texting and phone calls were essential too.

I returned home from a wonderful vacation and saw that life was slowly returning to normal in my village. Everyone is wearing masks, but many things that were closed or had stopped, have re-opened, or begun again. People are keeping respectful distances, but the haunting and eerie empty streets and stores and malls of the past months are once again filled with people.

I had forgotten to dress this past weekend and needed to run to the grocery store for a needed ingredient. It is a large store with a large Kosher and Jewish section, and it is THE place to food shop. We lost all of our smaller neighborhood stores to do a quick pickup, sad to say.

I wanted it to be a quick run, and I did not want to get fahrpitzed or dressed up to run to the store. AHA, I thought to myself. Wear a hat, sunglasses and your mask and NO ONE will know it is you. And at a place where I may have bumped into about 5-10 people I know, they would not recognize me to stop and give me New Year greetings or to catch up. A normal trip to the store like this could take twice as long with these friendly encounters, which are usually welcomed, but sometimes not when I am in a hurry. Sometimes that extra 20 minutes or more of schmooze time can really put you behind schedule.

So off I went, determined to get in and out in record time and use the masked incognito look to my advantage. Sure enough, I spied some familiar faces and sailed right past them as with my mask, I was merely a stranger. I must say, this was a bit freeing and liberating, because even though I am a truly social and friendly person, there are those times where you want to get in and out without being noticed, (which in my area of the world is practically never.)

Success. No one recognized me and I made it through the purchase in record time. A bit of guilt followed. Normally I would be wishing people I know a Happy New Year in a jovial tone with loads of smiling. People cannot tell your smiling with a mask and sunglasses, that is for sure. But there is plenty of time ahead for that when I am not in a rush and when I am dressed better than say, your average homeless person.

So now, I may use this strategy again. We will stay masked indefinitely, that is for sure, and if I have the time to chat, I will make my presence known, and if I do not, I will float through the store unnoticed. It’s sometimes good to have a choice. I remember one time having to run out to get a prescription and I was a bit under the weather so I for sure did not want contact with people; and I made the mistake of not wearing lipstick and looking like death warmed over. For that quick trip, I saw no less than five people I knew, and all five expressed extreme concern over my health, even though it was just a mild cold. It was almost insulting, because I knew I looked that bad, and people are used to seeing me fahrpitzed, or at least with lipstick, one of my trademarks.

Yet incognito, I looked like the below, but WITH a hat on. Read on after photo to last paragraph.

For those reading who may have been IN the store, I can recognize some of you even with your masks. You need to up the ante with the hat and sunglasses. And a belated Happy New Year wish to you and to all of my readers.

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