How times have changed.
In the early weeks of the pandemic in the U.S., my local jurisdiction outside Washington, D.C. instituted a shutdown. Grocery chains created seniors shopping times, at the butt-crack of dawn. (This was at a time when fomite transmission was still considered a significant risk, so letting seniors shop before the store opened for everyone made sense.)
Between being barely awake, my glasses fogging up on the walk to the store, and the extra 30 minutes tacked on at home to wipe everything down, grocery shopping became onerous, and a bit scary.
After a month of this routine, I had a dream I was inside the grocery store, grazing the buffet (remember those days?), and I and everyone around me were sans masks. I felt free, my soul lightened.
*A brief aside: When I was in graduate school, working on a PhD thesis in sociology, my cohort and I were deeply into semiotics: the study of how meaning is constructed — and reconstructed — from signs and symbols. The concept played a role in my thesis work on how mainstream and alternative press journalists constructed meaning from the same set of facts about occupational health.
Fast forward a year. I dreamt last night of being with a dear friend at a museum. Apparently, the exhibit required getting a timed-entry ticket, because we were sitting on a bench, while groups of others milled about waiting to be let in. We were all without masks. In other words, a nightmare.
For some people, masks have come to mean oppression. For me, they now mean safety and freedom to leave my apartment.