On a necessary venture into the coronaviral miasma, I found myself in a line that seemed stretched a mile away from the register. Sounds bad — but because we were distancing, there were only four people ahead of me.

There were marks on the floor to indicate where we should stand. Helpful! At some point, the manager had tossed a roll of tape to an employee, said, “Mark ’em off, 6 feet apart, because of plague,” and the employee hopped to it. Otherwise we would all be carrying yardsticks taped together, tucked under an armpit, perhaps with a bell on each end.

The trouble with these spaced-out lines became apparent when someone tried to zipper-merge from an another aisle, and, let me tell you, the line was on high alert to let her know that wasn’t going to happen. But a clerk opened up another register, and the interloper made her move before any of us could react.


Well I never.

Well isn’t that different.

On the way out, I shot her a look, which pinged off like a BB hitting a battleship. For a moment I felt a bit abashed, being so petty in these times, but then I realized that it felt wonderfully normal to glare impotently at someone over a trivial matter. Besides, when we rebuild society, someone will have to restore the old norms, and mute, powerless disapproval is one of those Minnesota things we must cherish.

“I’m sorry,” you’re thinking. “I lost you at yardstick. Who has yardsticks? There’s a thing called a tape measure, you know. Why, my phone can measure distances with an app. A yardstick, boomer?”

Yes. I have about 10. Last year at the State Fair I picked one up at the Gas and Digging Holes Building, which may not be its real name. You answered a trivial question, got a yard stick in any of several bright hues. They’re in the garage, and when I pass them every day in the winter I think: The fair will come again.

But ... but what if it doesn’t?

They called it off before, usually because there was a war. It was scotched in 1946 out of fear of polio. It does make you think how “State Fair” and “social distancing” will work.

Not very well, I’m guessing.

The two concepts work as well as oil and water — or, since we’re talking about the fair, grease and sweat. People’s hands are all over everything. It’s possible the Midway workers will bleach every surface of the rides before loading them up again. It’s possible the daily parade will conclude with Fairchild riding a fire engine that hoses everyone down with hand sanitizer. It’s possible someone will take a mini-Donut from a friend’s bag without first taking the friend’s temperature and asking them if they’ve traveled outside the country in the past month.

But we can’t count on any of those things?

Perhaps they’ll bring back the Freak Show, with all kinds of strange creatures.

“Step right up! See Immuno, the Boy with No Fear! He shakes your hand and rubs his eyes! Hurry, hurry, hurry! See Bosso, who used to swallow swords and fire and now swallows something even more unbelievable, the work-at-home employee’s time-sheet! See the Siamese twins who somehow manage to stay 6 feet apart! All real! All alive!”

Flus, alas, come in waves, and I hope we’re rid of this $*#(@#thing by the end of summer. If everyone has to maintain social distance, which is important, and we want to beat the annual attendance record, which also is important, the fair will have to occupy a territory that extends to Alexandria.

Or, we could do it online. Everyone puts on their T-shirt that tells the world who they are, runs the shower with the bathroom door closed so they look damp and humid, then joins a virtual food stall line where they wait 10 minutes to connect while staring at a picture of the back of someone’s neck.

An online slide show could handle the Fine Arts exhibits. You could connect a Bluetooth speaker, place it in another room, and have someone yell, “Check. Check. One two” to simulate the Grandstand in the afternoon. You could print out a picture of that guy who sells used exercise equipment and put it over your toilet.

But it wouldn’t be the same. And if it’s not the same, it’s not the fair.

Seems a bit early to think about these things. But when you consider that last week seems like seven months ago, and every day brings a new redefinition of normal that would have made us spasm and dissolve two days before, who knows?

I just know that I like to think about the fair, the taste of a corn dog, the tang of the mustard and the opportunity to glare at someone who tried to cut in line.

Hey, after weeks of lockdown, we’re going to have the whole “passive” part of “passive-aggressive” honed to absolute perfection.