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While waiting at a train station, a man contemplates the state of not just his nation but the world.

Catch-22: A logic nut that dictates that for A to happen, B has to be true. But for B to be true, A cannot happen.

As Sam sat at the bench in the train station, reading his newspaper, waiting for the 6PM train, he thought about how ridiculous it felt to be sitting all alone yet wearing his face mask. He had a mind to slip it down his face which was hidden behind the pages. The fact that the mask was fogging up his spectacles only served his motivation further. But Sam fought the urge as he stared at the headline of The MercuryRETURN TO LOCKDOWN IMPENDING.

The article spoke a lot of the ongoing issues plaguing the country as far as the pandemic was concerned, but what stuck out to Sam was the biggest issue at the moment: the people themselves. Sam was about to throw the newspaper away, believing it to be just stories and shoddy journalism when he turned to find a prime example of what the article was talking about.

At the turnstile in front of the ticket booth was a short queue of three people. However, it was their attitudes that interested Sam. The first man had clearly put his mask on just before walking up to the ticket booth. What Sam deduced from this was that while the man complied with the rules, he clearly saw them as just rules. The second person in the queue was clearly with the third person – a woman – as the two looked cozy with each other. While Sam could understand the lack of social distancing between them, what he couldn't understand was how close he was standing next to the first man.

As if Sam hadn't already judged this young man already, the man also wasn't wearing a mask at all and was popping bubblegum like a ten-year-old. However, it was his girlfriend's actions – or rather lack of action – that amazed Sam. It was her that was hesitant to be in that queue at all. She wore her face mask high on her face, had her hands in her pocket, and was giving the other man a lot of space.

The drastic differences between all three of them continued right onto the platform as the first man took a seat on the open bench but then moved when the gum-ass decided to bother him for a lighter and a cigarette. The first man had had enough and moved to stand right at the edge of the platform, just a few metres from where Sam sat.

The man noticed Sam and picked up that he'd seen all that. "You know, some people just don't get that we're in the middle of a pandemic here." He threw a glance at the young couple who'd taken a seat now. "I mean who smokes and chews gum at the same time anyway," he said, not caring whether the gum-ass could hear him.

Sam shrugged. "They act that way because it hasn't affected them yet. Try not to take it too seriously," said Sam. He wanted to add that he should just keep doing what he was doing and keep his distance for his own sake if not for theirs.

"Argh, I mean they can't even just pretend to follow the rules?"

Sam knew that he had to say something now. "Pretending is not going to cut it though. I mean it's not just about following rules so as not to get caught. We actually have to act differently now."

The man slumped his shoulders, clearly having heard this before. "Oh, you're one of those guys. Let me ask you, honestly: what is the point of wearing that thing when there's no one else around?"

"Well, for one thing, we need to prove people, like the folks that wrote this paper, wrong," said Sam. "Did you know that the government is thinking of closing the country again? And not because the pandemic has gotten worse. At least not for people like you and me who – as you said – at least pretend to follow the rules. But they wanna close it down because people are acting like this thing is over," said Sam pointing at the gum-ass. The problem is everyone wants to react when things are proven to be going downhill instead of acting now to preempt anything from going wrong in the first place."

The man, still not convinced, raised his eyebrows questioningly. "And sitting here all by yourself with your mask on is going to somehow preempt this thing?"

Sam wanted to roll his eyes. "No. But what will, what I am saying, is just because the rules permit something, it doesn't mean we should jump on the bandwagon. Just because you can go to a bar, it doesn't mean you should go party with your friends."

"Why do I get the feeling that you don't drink," said the man completely missing the point.

Fortunately, the train arrived before Sam could give this guy a piece of his mind. Sam decided he'd take his own advice and make sure to sit far from this guy and not take it too seriously as he was starting to annoy him more than the gum-ass. This man clearly hadn't been affected by the pandemic either... not like Sam.

The fact and the matter was that the reason Sam was taking the train home was because he was the owner of a club that had since closed down. The reason he wasn't taking his own car home was because he'd been forced to sell it to make ends meet at home. And the reason he hadn't taken his mask off since leaving home in the morning for his interview today was because he needed to protect his family from people like these. He wasn't going to wait for something to happen before he acted. No, he was going to be preemptive.

Sam was now convinced that the newspaper had not been trash at all. It had described what Sam would call a Catch-2020: a world whose citizens wanted the world to go back to normal but were also the ones preventing that from happening.



This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © All stories are Copyright © 2016-2020 by S.T. Kubheka (also known by the pseudonym Bernard "Beesting" Bayede). ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This story or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

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