THE OLD NEW NORMAL, Chapter 5: Nothing To Sneeze At

By Liz McLeod

Again Your House Manager


“AH-CHOOOOOO!” I ah-chooed as I lurched into the kitchen, tossing my jacket in the direction of nothing in particular. It was late, and who’s gonna know? The force of my sneeze stretched the elastics of my mask outward, and I winced as the recoil snapped it back against my face.

Miss Carol T. Cat reacted with dismay at my sudden forcible sternutation. “Cease that at once,” she commanded. “I am, as you know, vulnerable to airborne contaminants. You shall undergo full testing immediately to ensure that you have not brought contagion into our home.”

“Put a can on it,”  I growled. “You know I don’t have anything contagious. It’s allergy season, and the ragweed’s all in bloom. That vacant lot out behind the fence is a menace to respiration. Where’s my gas mask?”

“Nevertheless,” declared Miss Carol, “precautions are in order. Recall the recent news item concerning a snow leopard who became infected recently due to pathogens carried by those who came to pay him obeisance. Until a felid vaccine is fully available, I require you to maintain full sanitary protocols. Disinfect my food bowl at once, and bring my late-evening meal.”

I sighed. I thought we were thru all this, you know? I thought things were getting better. I thought the pandemic was pretty much over. And now, well, you know what’s going on. Miss Carol’s got the right idea though – better safe than sorry. That’s why we’re now requiring Strand patrons to keep their masks on for the duration of their visits, except when eating or drinking, to provide that extra layer of protection that will keep things from getting worse. Like Miss Carol, you know, not everyone who wants to be vaccinated can be, not yet. And we don’t even know everything there is to know yet about the new Delta variant. So doesn’t it make good sense to be extra careful? Miss Carol certainly thinks so, and we do too. We’re of course still keeping up with our enhanced cleaning and air-filtering protocols at the theatre, and are limiting attendance at each movie show to 100 persons, ensuring there’s plenty of room to maintain social distance, and with the amended masking requirements we’re taking the responsible steps we need to take to keep everyone safe. Nobody knows exactly how long the present situation will continue, but be assured that we’re monitoring the situation carefully to make sure we’re in line with what needs to be done. You should always keep an eye on our Strand website and social media for any updates, and the latest information will always be posted as well as in the theatre itself.

“Are you finished with your public service announcement?” interrupted Miss Carol. “I have grown twelve percent hungrier during the interval required for its delivery. Feeding will now commence.”

“AH-CHOOOOOOO!” I sneezed again, as a fresh dose of ragweed pollen found its target. This time the recoil of the mask elastic caused me to lose my grip on the can of Friskies Turkey Pate with Sauce I had just opened, and its contents landed, with a soft squish, on Miss Carol’s back. 

I mercifully draw the curtain over the rest of this scene. Her reaction was, as you can imagine, nothing to sneeze at.

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