Conversations With a Mask
By Neil McKinnon
Recently, Judy and I celebrated our 55th wedding anniversary by dining at a local restaurant that had just opened after having been closed due to the pandemic. The staff were wearing masks, music was playing and there was a buzz of conversation from other patrons. After a scrumptious dinner, the following took place:
WAITRESS: Will that be all or would you care for something else?
ME: It was delicious. We’re full but we’ve decided to share a dessert. Bring us a Chocolate Caramel Sundae with two spoons, please.
WAITRESS: Of course. Are peanuts okay on your sundae?
JUDY: It’s not Sunday. It’s Thursday.
ME: It’s okay. She’s only allergic to peanuts on Sundays.
WAITRESS: You ordered a sundae. Is it the mixture? Are you allergic to dairy? I’ve never heard of a peanut allergy, just on a sundae.
JUDY: No, it’s Thursday.
ME: It’s okay. She can eat anything on Thursday.
WAITRESS: You mean the day matters? It’s not just the mix of ice cream and peanuts on a sundae?
ME: Oh no! It’s more than Sunday. She can’t have peanuts on Wednesday or Saturday either.
WAITRESS: You’re pulling my leg. Do you want two dishes or is one bowl fine?
JUDY: No thanks, I don’t want any more wine.
The conversation made me muse on how things have changed. We have friends who are unable to leave various countries. We know a couple who were trapped for weeks on a cruise ship. Reading about understaffed hospitals and overwhelmed funeral homes caused me to re-muse. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s because I once took a course in advanced musing as part of the training for my job as Assistant Message Taker for the Assistant Secretary to the Assistant Manager in a Pork Barrel Construction Company in Ottawa.
We learned more than to muse like experts. Our training included climbing tall trees using only spider webs, crossing rivers on inflated condoms and preparing single malt beverages from fermented bear droppings. My biggest takeaway was learning how to overcome self-doubt through judicious use of pretense and ostentation.
But I digress. I was still musing about overwhelmed facilities when I got home and checked my email. A deceased friend, Mortimer Glutenswab, had forwarded a memo that he had received shortly after he passed away. The subject line read, Celestial Newsletter. I share it with you now.
To Promised Land Residents:
We are watching the virus situation closely as the health and safety of all is our number one priority. Since its escape (some say it was released) from a laboratory in the netherworld, the crisis caused by this minute malevolent critter continues to have an economic impact across Heaven. We know that many residents will experience financial hardship. Our goal is to work with everyone to reduce stress.
We are asking all who can pay their rent to please do so. For those who cannot, our commitment is to work with you. In order to get through this together, we are announcing the following programs:
- Rent Freeze Program – Effective immediately, we have halted all rent increases for eternity, or for three days, whichever comes first.
- Deferred Rent Program – For those experiencing financial difficulty, and who qualify, we will defer rent payments. Individuals will be required to demonstrate financial need and be in a starvation coma.
Remember, rental payments are an obligation that you assumed when you terminated your lease on life and moved here. While we are prepared to be flexible, you must keep us up-to-date regarding unexpected windfalls. An example would be a refund you receive for a prepaid funeral that you didn’t use because your spouse buried you in the back garden.
Management has a robust safety plan that we are following and adjusting in real time as the situation evolves. The measures include:
- Insisting that, if you suspect you’ve been exposed or have recently travelled before your demise, that you self-isolate for 14 days and follow directions from the Kingdom Come Health Officer,
- Disinfecting door handles, clouds and especially halos which tend to become tarnished with use,
- Providing frontline angels with an updated safety protocol, including free wing clipping as post death travel is no longer allowed,
- Insisting that social distancing become the new normal—two wingspreads, three for older angels whose wings tend to droop, and
- Ensuring that all harp concerts and Heavenly Host sing-alongs are performed online or individually from one’s balcony.
Books For Sale:
1) Used copy of Dante’s Inferno. Read how the other half lives.
2) Sex While Social Distancing: A Do-it-Yourself Manual.
At times like these, it is normal to feel stress and anxiety. Purgatory Inc., one of our subsidiaries, has launched a digital mental health care platform called Silver Lining, which can be accessed when things get cloudy. Everyone in Heaven is eligible for a two-week free trial.
Musician to play bagpipes while I masturbate. No weirdos need apply.
1) Exorcism & Your Acne.
2) Convert Your Harp into a Dune Buggy.
3) Guilt Without Sex.
The following addendum is for newcomers:
Thank you for choosing Heaven as the place where you wish to spend your afterlife. Unlike our main competitor, we are concerned about first impressions. We understand that you have just died and things may be a little confusing. However, if you would take a quick survey, we would appreciate feedback on your recent passage through the Pearly Gate and on your subsequent experiences.
- Thinking about your first impression, how likely are you to recommend Heaven to a friend or colleague? Please rate us on a scale of 0, meaning not until hell freezes over, to 10, extremely likely.
- If you rated us below three, do you wish to be transferred? At this particular time, Hell and Alberta are the only options available.
- Based on your visit so far, please rate us on the following using a scale of one to five, where 1 = poor and 5 = excellent:
- Saint Peter’s welcome: Did he listen and communicate with understanding?
- The angels that accompanied you: Were they knowledgeable and did they educate you on our cultural norms?
- The transition from life in Saskatchewan: Has it been smooth and easy for you? Why do you think so many choose to stay there instead of joining us?
- The Heavenly Host: Have they provided helpful advice and suggestions?
- Other alternatives: Are you a candidate for canonization and is this option suited to you?
- Timeliness: Were your wings, halo and celestial gown ready when promised?
Thank You. Please include your mobile number at the bottom of the page. Together we will Make Heaven Great Again!
The Big Kahuna