***Chad on line in the grocery story. Person on line in front of Chad wearing a surgical mask and surgical gloves. Many customers wearing surgical masks and gloves. Line moving slowly. A man comes up to Chad, not wearing a surgical mask, not wearing gloves.***
"Is this where the line starts?" the man asks.
"Yes, here," Chad says.
"Thanks," the man says, and gets on line behind Chad.
A few moments go by.
"You know..." the man says, "they say that the masks aren't safe, that they might even be worse for you, because you're constantly breathing in the same air."
"Ah, OK, right, I see," Chad says.
"Crazy times..." the man says.
"Yeah," Chad says.
"But it's times like these we could all use a little comedy," the man says. "You wanna hear a joke?
Chad thinks: You have to be fucking kidding me. The other day on the way to the airport, the cab driver who took Chad would not stop telling jokes -- the entire damn ride, just would not stop telling jokes. Though that guy and his jokes did offer a bit of comic relief, not a-fucking-gen, Chad thinks. Not one of these "comedians" again.
Still, Chad says yes.
"OK," the man says, a man who Chad notices is about Chad's height, which means that if spittle from this man goes flying, there's a good chance it will land on Chad's mouth.
The man begins his joke: "So my daughter, she was saying that she likes Cinderella and she wants a Cinderella birthday party."
"OK..." Chad says, solely to show that he's paying attention.
"I told her she can have a Cinderella party if she likes; in fact, I told her to invite all her friends. And you know what I did when all her friend got there?"
"I said, 'OK, sweetie, now we're all going to go out and you can stay home and clean!'"
Chad laughs, because the joke is funny; however, at the same time, Chad notices that the woman in front of him in the surgical mask is eyeing him down. Chad thinks that she must be thinking, "Why the fuck are these two men, both of whom aren't wearing protective masks, laughing?'" The woman does not look friendly. You can hardly see her face because one half of it is mask, the other, bifocals.
The lines moves forward a little bit. Chad is happy about that, very happy. You see, everything else notwithstanding, joke-man has this little idiosyncrasy. When he tells his jokes, he unconsciously moves toward Chad and Chad, remember, really does not want the man's spittle on him.
The line moves a little more.
"Hey," the man says, "since we have a minute or two, can I tell you another joke?" The man sounds so nice when he asks. His tone is almost like one might imagine Oliver Twist's to have been when he uttered that "s' more" line. How could you say no?
Chad doesn't. Stupid Chad, but he doesn't.
"Well, OK, one more," Chad says. But Chad now has his back nearly completely to the man, hoping the man will take a hint and not move too close.
The man begins to tell the joke, and again he begins to get closer and closer to Chad. But this time, as Chad tries to move away, surgical mask woman looks at Chad and then makes a gesture with her hand, one that is universally understood to mean "halt."
"Six feet..." surgical mask woman says.
Chad can't believe it. How fucking rude, he thinks. Dude behind Chad is still telling the joke, something about a Victoria Secret model and lingerie, but all Chad can think about now is how he's got this woman and this man to worry about, and what the fuck is he going to do?
The lines moves. The man continues to tell the joke and Chad laughs, thinking that the man has arrived at the punchline, but Chad just laughed at something that wasn't even the punchline. The man doesn't even care, though. He just keeps telling the joke with the same gusto.
"Cash or credit?" the supermarket guy asks, interrupting Chad out of his now mild state of panic.
Chad says cash. The supermarket guy immediately routes Chad over to Checkout 1. Yes, yes, Checkout 1, Chad thinks, away from this fucking man and away from this fucking woman...Thank God.
As Chad leaves the store, he think's of a figure of speech, "to be between a rock and a hard place."
Wow, Chad thinks, that really was like being between a rock and a hard place.