The Corona Chronicles: Week 17: Random acts of kindness

In the trials and tribulations of these Corona times, I’ve been using self-help techniques to ground me. This week, finding myself falling into grumpiness at the whole situation, I’ve been practising ‘random acts of kindness.’ This involves small deeds that bring a smile to someone else’s day. I’ve sent flowers to a friend, picked up some shopping for a neighbour and bought chocolates for the staff in my local shop.

It feels good to do something for my soul. But I also need to do something for my body, which hasn’t fared well in lockdown. It’s too late now to undo the months of comfort eating but with a holiday in France on the horizon, I’m sadly lacking in Parisian chic. Drastic action is called for. Not just for me but for the whole family. We all need a make-over.

The Nearly-Beloved isn’t convinced. He’s perfectly happy with his home haircut and sees no need to replace the baggy shorts, socks and sandals he wears on every vacation. Grunting Teen’s reluctant to go into town with his mum again but even he realises that his fringe has now reached comedic lengths.

Besides, with school no longer providing a brief respite from the PS4, he needs something to fill his day. But he’s surprisingly resistant to my offer of hothousing his French. ‘No point, mum,’ he says, ‘we’ll just let dad shout loudly and mime until they reply in perfect English.’

Well, if I can’t get him to speak the lingo at least I can make sure he’s presentable, so we head off in search of a barber’s and a bargain. But first we have to negotiate public transport, so it’s time to don the masks. Grunting Teen has already lost his, despite not having set foot outside for the last two days. Thank goodness I have a spare one.

And the bus is fuller since the last time we ventured out on public transport. So just as well that the Nearly-Beloved isn’t with us to point out violations in mask wearing laws. He’d give an A-star to the young woman in her colour-coordinated Covid combo, and the elderly lady with her cheap plastic offering would surely be awarded a B for effort. The cool dude in his edgy bandana might raise an eyebrow and lose marks for non-conformity. But, all the same, he’s following safety advice, unlike the gossiping friends who’d fail outright, with their noses peeping out for a breath of fresh infection.

Still, at least they’ve tried, unlike the wayward youth who’s currently attempting to board the bus bare-faced. The driver politely points out the need for a mask but is met with a stream of schoolboy excuses. Is it all going to kick off? It looks like it might until the little old dear decides on an entirely inappropriate random act of kindness.

‘I’m getting off here’ she says, ‘so take mine, love’ and to the gasps of the entire bus, she hands him her mask, which he dons with gratitude and a complete lack of health and safety awareness. The driver looks appalled. But what can he do? The rules have been upheld even if the virus most definitely hasn’t.

Still in shock from what we’ve just witnessed, I deposit Grunting Teen at the barber’s and rush off to purchase a holiday wardrobe. And I’m in luck. It’s sales city in the shops and without the option of using the fitting rooms I can fill my basket in no time. The only downside is, that four shops in, I’ve now sanitised my hands eight times and the skin’s already starting to crack. A visit to the chemist sees me stocking up on hand-cream and more masks, ‘just in case’.

As I head back to the barber’s, I spot a clean-cut young man performing his own random act of kindness, litter-picking on the street. But as I approach, I realise this handsome lad is my very own Grunting Teen and the litter is a mass of discarded face masks.

‘Mum,’ he says, visibly distressed, ‘these ‘disposable’ masks have layers of plastic in them. They’re an environmental nightmare! Promise me we’ll only use cloth ones from now on.’

Guiltily I shove my new purchase to the bottom of my bag before grabbing him by the elbow and marching him into the nearest shop. ‘I don’t need any clothes,’ he protests. But it’s not clothes I’m after. Suitably sanitised, I lead him back to the bus stop.

The driver is instantly recognisable by his ‘seen-it-all’ eyes. I show him my ticket and then, in a moment of inspiration, I present him with my pack of disposable masks. ‘I thought you could make use of these,’ I tell him, ‘you know, in case you have any more awkward passengers.’

He smiles his appreciation from behind his screen whilst I tick off another act of random, if not altogether altruistic, kindness.

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