I was going to write a heartwarming holiday column about sharing a beer with a stranger in the desert.
“Sharing this beer with others actually brings me joy,” I wrote in my notes.
One of my scribbles refers to the dropping temperatures and rising moon. Another explains how this burgeoning friendship started when I heard the crack of a can indicating our campsite neighbors were enjoying a beer of their own which led to a hearty, “Whattaya drinkin’?” After that, we were off to the races.
I was going to write about how a beer can bridge divides. Outside of the choice to camp for a single night at Joshua Tree in temps that bordered freezing, my wife and I had very little in common with our neighbors. They were single-minded climbers pursuing boulders.
We were just looking for a chance to take a hike and maybe read a book near a campfire. They were in their 20s, and we are…not. We made a full camp meal on our stove with a spot of whiskey and a beer. They ate what appeared to be ramen out of a pot.
Then we shared a beer and none of those differences mattered. We learned about them. They learned about us. We laughed. We all shivered when the temps dropped below 40 but they shared some hardwood with us for the fire.
We talked about camping and our shared love for nature and their passion for climbing. All this communing with strangers because I heard the crack of a beer can being opened. What I was going to write about this week was how beer can create friendships where none had existed before.
Then I came back into civilization and I thought, “Ugh. Not again.” Coronavirus is rearing its ugly head again. Omicron is quickly becoming a dominant force. Misinformation is spreading.
The mask mandates are back in effect but it was noticeable that almost no one besides the staff was wearing one at the local coffee shops and breweries I stopped into this week. I hope that was an aberration and not the rule because in a sign that I had entered the “Upside Down” (Stranger Things reference), almost everyone at Walmart this morning was wearing one.
Whattaya drinkin’? Photo by Wil Stewart
Back in civilization, I kept my head down while picking up holiday gifts of beer and whiskey and coffee. Back in civilization, I returned to cross the street when I saw someone else walking my way. Back in civilization, there is anger about politics, distress about climate change, fighting over vaccine mandates, and on, and on. It’s enough to make me want to drink my beers alone.
I’m going to write something that feels familiar. It feels a little repetitive, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant. The mask mandates are back, back again (Backstreet Boys reference) and the new-old coronavirus is still spreading.
Please, please, be cool to your servers, bartenders, baristas, and hospitality workers. They (along with our medical staff and essential workers) have been carrying the weight of coronavirus more than the rest of us. They have …….