“Hello,” the voice said on the other end of the phone.
“Ah, yes, this is David Nelson, I’m looking to speak to Councilman Dill.”
“This is he.”
Even in four brief words his upstate, South Carolina accent came across loud and clear. Not that I have room to talk. According to Jaimie and my sisters, this past Saturday night at dinner, my southern accent was out of control. The more I tried to squash it, the more it got away from me. I took this as unequivocal proof that I needed to start loosening up my mouth and performing again, or I needed to be spending less time eating chicken legs in my parents’ drive way.
I thanked him for answering the phone. The Bio on his homepage says that he believes, “…everyone in his district has a voice.” On this he was true to his word. His answering was all the more impressive because I don’t have an 864 area code! Mine is 310. That’s Los Angeles. I can think of few places farther apart in distance and culture than Los Angeles, CA and Landrum, SC.
After thanking him for answering, I proceeded to let him know my whole hearted supported for the City of Greenville’s requirement to wear masks in grocery stores and pharmacies, and that I hoped the County of Greenville would soon do the same.
That’s when things went off the rails.
The first thing he asked me to do was repeat myself. Which I happily did. Then he said that wearing masks was, “Against science.”
I asked him to repeat himself.
I didn’t quite know what to do with that answer. I mean, the overwhelming opinion of the scientific community is that masks are one of the most powerful non-pharmaceutical weapons we have in our fight against Covid-19. The CDC. Dr. Fauci. Even Mitch McConnell wears a gosh-darn mask!
I understand someone being against the masks because they cannot stand the thought of the government telling them what to do. I think it’s ridiculous, but I can at least wrap my head around it. But to say that being pro-mask was “Against science” is an answer so stupid, so blatantly not true, so easily disproved, so easily Googleable, that it blew me off my center. I would have had more respect for him if he said that scientists are morons and have no idea what they are doing! My despair got even deeper when I realized that this was an elected official. That he convinced other people to vote for him. And for a long time. He has been a Councilman since 1998.
He asked me if I really thought that grocery stores and pharmacies should require people to wear masks. The way he said ‘really’ in that sentence suggested that he was giving me a second chance, letting me know that we were alone and I could tell him how I really felt. That I was free to admit to him that I thought wearing masks weren’t for “real men” but for “liberals."
This is when I proceeded to tell him about my health situation. That I had lungs that were already trying to fight off cancer, that I didn’t need them fighting off Covid-19 as well.
His response to my health considerations were just as perplexing.
“But Lowes doesn’t require you to wear a mask.”
“Didn’t you hear me tell you I had cancer?”
“Yeah but can go into Home Depot and not wear a mask at all. Why should I have to wear one buying groceries?
This is when I browned out. Does that happen to you in the middle of an argument? Do you brown out to the point that all you remember is your voice going up three octaves and you getting short of breath and you having visions of your second grade teacher and then you make threats about moving to Landrum and quitting everything else in your life to focus entirely on defeating him in the 2022 election and promising that you are going to slam down that cancer card so freaking hard he’s not going to know what hit him??
Anyone else argue like that? No?
We went back and forth for another ten minutes or so. He kept saying he agreed with me on certain things which made me even more angry. I asked how he could call himself pro-life and be so flippant with mine. He mentioned Lowe’s again and I reminded him that I could avoid my home improvement projects but couldn’t avoid buying soup and my anti-nausea medicine!
After the vision returned to my one good eye, I realized that I was wasting my time. I thanked him for taking my phone call, and before he let me hang up, he asked me to give him a second to grab a piece of paper.
“I just want to get this right,” his drawl thicker than when we started. “That you are Pro-Mask Wearing in public.”
I loved that, despite our back and forth, he needed to write it down. It reminded me of my mother. She always writes everything down. I reminded myself that this guy had a kid who was also amused by his need to write things down. That if he thinks “All science” was against wearing masks, that probably means he was getting bad information. And even if he wasn’t—even if he was lying his face off and acting in the worst possible of faith, that God loves him just as much as he loves me. That I am taught to love my neighbor as myself, not when it is easy, but when it is hard. And that doesn’t mean not calling him out when he is wrong, which I believe I had thoroughly done, but it means praying for him just as much as those who agree with me.
I mean, after all, he had taken my call.
And that if the City of Greenville, not known as a bastion of liberalism, can unanimously agree to wearing masks in pharmacies and grocery stores, maybe the county isn’t too far behind.
And at the very least, by letting Joe Dill know my opinion, I had participated, more fully than almost anyone else, in democracy.