Utah Wants a “Normal” That Doesn’t Exist Anymore

Riley Black
6 min readJul 10, 2020
Photo by visuals on Unsplash

Maybe I’d feel better if I turned the social distance shuffle into a dance.

I’ve had plenty of practice lately. Once or twice a week, when my girlfriend and I need to do a grocery run, we strap on our masks in the car and walk with purpose into our local supermarket. “Split it up?”, I usually ask. She’ll go grab the produce. I’ll take care of the meat and cheese and milk. Speed is key.

Some people in my corner of Salt Lake City must be feeling the same level of anxiety as I do. I can see it in their eyes. I poke the nose of my shopping cart into the aisle, peering around to make sure I’m not going to plow into anybody, and half the time I see the wide-eyed expression of someone else trying to keep a six-foot minimum distance in a place where there’s barely that much space between the soup and the pickles. Neither of us want to be there and all the awkward back and forth is the least we can do for courtesy.

But then there’s the people who are persistently, defiantly maskless.

My city and county are under a mandatory mask order. The store itself posted a sign as a reminder. Soon after, they added another saying that they’ll give you a mask if you don’t have one. (My favorite rendition of this was the Chinese takeout place that offers a free mask with your order — certainly better than a fortune cookie.) Yet the maskless still they stand there, ignoring the one-way aisle signs so they can get to that can of Progresso faster as if we’re playing Supermarket Sweep.

That’s mild compared to people at parks. When my girlfriend and I took our dog on a walk, picking a shady path to avoid a sun that feels too hot even by 10AM, a maskless jogger threaded through the people trying to keep their distance. Each time the runner would pass someone with a mask, they turned their head and glared. After they passed us, they hocked a loogie beside the path. I didn’t bother to ask what their take on the pandemic is, or if the spittle was a comment on my choice of dress for the day. The glob spoke for itself.

At this point, our local doctors and healthcare workers reminding us that hospitals may soon be at capacity is white noise. Our governor Gary Herbert — a living manifestation of a wet noodle — is quick to call a state of emergency

Riley Black

Distant cousin of T. rex. Author of Skeleton Keys, My Beloved Brontosaurus, and more. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Laelaps. http://rileyblack.net