It wasn’t quite what I expected inside the bright welcoming world of Target, COVID-19 cases dwindling, the mask mandate over and done.
I figured I’d see some covered faces and I understood why, but I thought the vaccinated throngs would be rejoicing Friday and, if not high-fiving in the bedding aisle, at least nodding and smiling.
You know, a shared sense of Viva la Lincoln!
Instead, we seemed skittish and unsure, visitors in a foreign land trying to figure out the customs and just how Chip and Joanna Gaines managed to commandeer an entire section of Texas-inspired crap in the middle of the store. (And if the store mannequins had always been devoid of facial features or was some sick marketing firm messing with us?)
The coming-out party was a combination of “good and weird,” KLIN radio host Jack Mitchell noted on Twitter. One that was hard to describe.
Kiley Ward agrees.
“It was really kind of strange just to go to all those places,” said Ward, who made his way into the retail world with a bare face Friday.
He felt fine mask-free on a visit to Menard’s, Ward said. He felt less fine stopping for take-out in a small BBQ joint and kept his distance, wondering how he was being perceived by his fellow citizens.
He was excited pushing a shopping cart at Super Saver and emotional seeing an actual smile from a “sweet old lady,” who needed help hauling down a couple of 2-liter bottles of pop.
But there was still that wary vibe between the Masked and the Unmasked.
“I just wanted to say ‘I’m vaccinated. I’m a good guy.’”
The science tells him he’s safe, he said. And that’s good enough for him.
It was good enough for Kevin James, too, who walked into Target with all his facial features on display Monday, followed by his masked wife, Kelly, and their three masked kids, Austin, 15, Abigail, 10, and Addison, 7.
Kevin shed his mask as soon as he got the green light from public health officials.
“I’m there,” he said. “My wife is just a little more cautious than I am.”
Their teenager has one shot down and the second on the way, but the younger two are not yet eligible, so caution seems sensible, Kelly said.
“And I want to be a role model for them.”
The James family seems fine dwelling in Do As You See Fit territory.
As am I. Plenty of friends and acquaintances are worried about variants, their children or their own (and their loved ones’) compromised immune systems. They aren’t shedding their masks anytime soon. I support them.
As my Target clerk told me at checkout: Everyone got the memo. It’s up to them.
Eric Herbert got the memo from city hall and another from his bosses at Nelnet. That one said employees who were vaccinated were free to forget their masks at home when they returned to the office on May 17.
“We’re supporting a hybrid workforce,” said the information technologies director. “If you’ve fallen in love with being at home and are productive, we support that.”
Herbert is an extrovert, so he’s back in the office at least three days a week. (His introverted wife is happy to keep working in solitude.)
He loves the energy of the office, Herbert said. Running into co-workers and having a chat. “Those happy accidents don’t happen at home.”
But they’re happening now.
Life is starting to feel ever more normal, he said Monday.
“Three of us went out to lunch today. It was kind of like a high school reunion.”
Gov. Pete Ricketts is ready for that reunion. Nebraska is Back in Business, he declared.
Ward and his wife, Kashoan, are ready.
They own Krafty Kash Designs — lovely handcrafted jewelry — and lost their pre-pandemic legs when the craft fairs and markets they traveled to were canceled in 2020.
They’ll be showing their wares June 5 at Makit Takit, another small Lincoln business.
“I’m super excited,” Kiley Ward said. “This is going to allow our business to get going again.”
The couple remain happy to have done their part during the pandemic by keeping their distance and covering up their faces in crowded places.
Those masks that fogged up Kashoan’s glasses and overheated Kiley’s bearded face?
“I’m sure glad I don’t have to wear it,” Kiley Ward said. “I hope to tuck mine in the back of a drawer and leave it there forever.”
Photos: The scene in Lincoln with much of city shut down
City Council distancing
Gameday empty Saturday
Thank you Bryan West
No fans allowed
Volleyball social distancing
Boo at the Zoo
Downtown mask art
Marching band competition
East Campus proposed budget cuts
No Football Saturday
UNL in-person class
Farmers Market influencers
Weeping Water vs. Fillmore Central/Exeter-Milligan
First day of middle school
First day of school
Pius X volleyball practice
House of Flowers delivery
City Council BLM protest
Rally and hearing
Lancaster County Super Fair
LPS board meeting
Meatpacking workers rally
Lincoln Northeast graduation
Gov. Ricketts address Legislature
Masked Archie the Mammoth
First Jury Trial in Four Months
Lincoln Community Playhouse
The Kindler Hotel
Garth Brooks Drive-In Concert
Urban Air Adventure Park
Gere Branch Library
Music on the Move
Bars Opening in Lincoln
LPS Teachers Retirement
Holmes Lake Manor Horse Visit
Lancaster County Courthouse
Church Social Distancing
Children of Smithfield
Parkview Christian Teacher Appreciation Day
Lincoln Christian 2020 Seniors
Test Nebraska site
Drive-Thru Career Fair
Center for People in Need food distribution
Masks For Truckers
Teacher and Staff Parade
Virtual City Council
Good Friday Music
Masks on a walk
Watch: A timelapse of the mural at Saro Cider
Watch: Hand sanitizer rolls off Innovation Campus assembly line
No fun here
Tower Square sign
WATCH: Celebrating a birthday with a parade
Simpsons in the windows
Drive-thru COVID-19 testing
UNL Beekeeping virtual class
Lincoln Lutheran Online Teaching
Blue for public health
Basketball without fans
Thanksgiving to go
Socially distant Santa
Christmas tree demand
Basketball fans reduced
Mike Hilgers at Legislature’s First Day
Zoo Bar membership
New high school
Biking in snow
Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @TheRealCLK