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Conversing with Strangers

The last two years following the Covid-19 pandemic has altered in person interactions astronomically, my observations conclude that these interactions are increasingly forced, cautious, and robotic. One could argue that the average extrovert has reverted to the subconscious introvert, myself included. Therefore, valuing the use of technology for interacting rather than physically interacting. This is at least when it comes to strangers.

As an employee of the essential services, specifically a retail warehouse, I am encountered with ranging demographics all the time. That being said, the decorum I employ inside and outside a working environment when in contact with strangers differs. For instance, in the work force I am expected to showcase exclusively positive, empathetic, and accommodating qualities when serving these strangers. While outside the work force I still reserve room for the same qualities but do not feel obliged to enforce them.

My most recent encounter with strangers has been during this past week with the members served within my work space. A specific encounter that took me off guard was when a member saw resemblance in myself and her niece. I was packing groceries into her cart when she approached me and was astounded as to how much I resembled her niece. The member proceeded to inhibit my personal space to show me pictures of the relative, while urging me to pull my mask down to confirm this resemblance. Due to the circumstances of the situation I felt conflicted on how to react, as we are still required to enforce social distancing and safety procedures when in contact with members; in addition to this being a complete stranger wanting to see my face. After a moments consideration, I found myself compelled by her arguments and momentarily pulled down my mask for her to examine. Satisfied that I did still resemble her niece with my mask pulled down the member backed away, and paid her bill not forgetting to send an endearing farewell my way.

Ultimately, reflecting on this encounter made me realize how apprehensive I felt when asked to pull down my mask. This is considering that prior to the pandemic the capacity to examine a strangers’ face was never reserved, but now, the mask offers an external layer of protection that I have now come to appreciate and rely on. So when put in a position where I felt compelled to take it off, made me realize how increasingly apprehensive I have become to share myself with strangers. Contrasting to the online domain where I actively post and participate on social media that entail visuals of myself. That extra security invoked by being able to showcase yourself through a screen is almost bittersweet, but allows the individual to act within their own boundaries. Whereas, in person interactions with strangers require a secondary party to gain access to personal boundaries, and as proved in my encounter these boundaries are not always respected.

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