As usual, we’re seeing lots of spring growth in the pine trees in our back yard. They started as tiny sticks planted in a muddy new development, now they are fully grown and the tallest trees in our neighborhood.
Every year we see a few more feet in height, as well as the soft, neon green sprouts on the branches that always make me think of a monster’s splayed fingers, dipped in lime-colored ink.
On the first leg of my return flight today I traveled with a passenger who wore one of those white cotton masks covering her mouth and nose.
Immediately I began to wonder: has there been an outbreak of an exotic disease somewhere in the world that I haven’t heard about? Or, was this woman just ill, and trying to be somewhat sensitive to the health of her fellow passengers. (I say “somewhat,” because I can’t believe that those surgical masks really provide much protection, and if she really was sick the rest of us on that confined metal tube with filled recycled air were likely to get whatever germs she might have been trying to contain. So, she really wasn’t that thoughtful after all — if she was sick, the thoughtful thing would have been to refrain from traveling and exposing the rest of us.)
But perhaps she was worried about getting germs from me, and the woman with the two kids, and the guy wearing the sportcoat and the pork pie hat. Maybe she was just one of those hypochondriacs who worry about going out in public due to a Howard Hughes-like fear of airborne exposure to the latest strain of bacteria or flu. I felt vaguely offended by that possibility. Or maybe she wears a mask because she is famous and is traveling incognito. Or maybe she just wears the mask to keep people like me on their toes and paying attention to their fellow passengers.
I’ll be paying extra close attention to whether I get the sniffles, a scratchy throat, and a cough over the next day or so.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s Navy Week in New Orleans. One of the stolid, gray Navy ships docked at the pier on the Mississippi River is the U.S.S Mitscher. As one of the polite, crisp, white-clad Navy officers who are everywhere around town patiently explained to me, the Mitscher is a guided missile destroyer that is bristling with weaponry. “It’s a great ship,” he said. It’s named after World War II hero Admiral Marc Andrew Mitscher, and its motto is “Seize the Day.”