The things you hate in other people are the things you hate about yourself. This was the theme of one of the four homilies Father Nick, my childhood priest, used to say in loop. I’ve never been able to get it out of my head, so whenever someone pisses me off my first thought is—do I do that too?
This past Saturday I went to have a socially distanced coffee with a friend of mine. This friend lives way out in the country. Over the years Greenville has become so fancy, and almost all of the development has focused on downtown. It’s been that way with surrounding areas as well. Travelers Rest has a booming downtown, with restaurants and shops and breweries. Hell, even Fountain Inn and Greer have cute Main Streets! Despite aaaaaaallllll that, one of the truths about Greenville, is that no matter where you are, you’re pretty close to some county.
And not all country is created equal. You’ve got backwoods. You’ve got flat with nothing around. Or you have the northern part of the county, with hills and mountains and beauty. Even within that, there’s still some backwoods, don’t get me wrong, but where my friend lives— absolutely stunning. I visited him last year and have been dying to go back. His log cabin, (yes I said log cabin) sits on three acres, part wild, part landscaped. He has an incredible wrap around porch. The place would be even more spectacular if it wasn’t for all the trees. Lovely trees, massive and awe-inspiring. The problem is they are blocking a clear view of Caesar’s Head, one of the jewels of Upstate South Carolina. My friend is a good liberal, however, and as a good liberal one cannot justify the chopping of trees simply to improve a view. It's gorgeous, a perfect place to spend a Saturday afternoon. It’s also a reminder that— no matter how much I strive to see God in all things, and no matter how grateful I am for the nice, warm, safe place Jaimie and I have to live—I desperately want out of my apartment complex. I desperately want a house and a yard of our own.
On the way to the socially distanced coffee date, I decided to stop by UpCountry Provisions. UpCountry Provisions is one of the places making downtown Travelers Rest so inviting. It’s a bakery and a sandwich shop. They’ve got some indoor seating and a really nice outside area. When you walk in the smell of baked goods overpowers you. Overpowers in the best possible way. I don’t know if there is a heaven, but if there is, it smells like UpCountry Provisions. Or honeysuckles. Or how pizza did in your mom’s minivan after you first picked it up when you were a kid. Either that, or it smells like church basement coffee. Not quite as inviting a scent as the ones I mentioned prior, but I have met God more in church basements that smelled like Folgers than any other place in the world, and if we are trying to make things on earth like they are in heaven, then maybe that is what the place smells like.
I was at UpCountry provisions to pick up Cinnamon Rolls. I usually don’t rock Cinnamon Rolls. I like things that I can at least convince myself aren’t morning desserts. Like there’s no explaining your way out of a donut. A muffin on the other hand…that could have fruit or even bran. There is enough wiggle room to convince yourself that a muffin isn’t breakfast cake, even though that’s exactly what it is.
I get to Upcountry Provisions, pop on my mask, and since people are practicing the six feet apart rule, there is a line out there door. And by “out the door”, I mean me. I mean I was standing outside the door, waiting for someone to exit. I saw someone come out the exit door so I opened up the front door, but there still wasn’t exactly a place to stand. I kept it open for a minute, until everyone saw this as an invitation to leave my way. Why leave through the door marked EXIT, right by their table, when there was a “youngish” man holding the door open. Clearly that was meant for them. And once people start leaving, it's not like you can stop them. So at least ten people walked their uncovered mouths inches from my face, all while thanking me being so polite. As soon as they were done I re-shut the door and waited outside for the ordering line to get smaller.
Before that could happen, an older gentlemen comes up and asks if I was in line. I told him that it was, and he asked if it was the same line for take out orders. I appreciated his faith in my knowledge of the inner workings of UpCountry Provision's Covid-19 safety procedures, but truth be told, I didn't know what the heck is going on. I just wanted some Cinnamon Rolls, and a muffin in case I got there and wanted to pretend like I was being healthy.
“I think it’s all one line,” I said, clearly making things up. He opened the door to see inside, to get a better look. That’s when he proceeded to continue holding the door open, all while standing less than a foot way from me!
I was shocked! He must have stood there for five minutes!
And here’s the weird thing—he was wearing a mask! It said Pittsburgh Steelers. He was clearly aware of the danger. He was knowledgeable of the fact that SOMETHING was contagious in the air, and still he saw nothing wrong with standing a less than a foot from my body. He got it half right! He knew there a virus which our best two defenses are masks and being six feet apart from other people. He got the mask part right, but for some reason he felt the uncontrollable urge to spoon me, to be less than 12 inches from my butthole!
And listen, it’s not like I can blame him. But at 1 p.m? On a Saturday? At UpCountry Provisions? In the middle of a pandemic? Not the freaking time!!!!!
So maybe I need to look at the things in my life I’m doing half right. The things I'm doing with half measures . Or maybe I just need to learn to stop respecting my elders, and to tell people who decide they need to invade my six feet to BACK THE HECK UP!
When I decide which one it is, I'll be sure to let you know.