People enjoy a invite-only soft opening on Friday July 28, 2017 that Goat Patch Brewing Co., the anchor brewery put on at the redeveloped Lincoln School. The company celebrated its grand opening on Monday. (Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette).

To think, there was a point in life when I cherished my “me time.” That was back when it felt like a choice.

I feel differently, now that the majority of my human contact is virtual and drive-by. When my friend and former Gazette colleague (and “brewru”) Jakob Rodgers offered to stop by my house for a few backyard beers on a sunny afternoon this month, it wasn’t just the prospect of sampling good suds that had me buzzing.

We talked about movies and beers and books and “how much fun are words?” and I felt how contestants on that show “Alone” must feel when they crap out and the exit team finally arrives.

I was still giddy and gushing later that night when I called my mom. Below is a reenactment of our conversation:

“Hung out with a friend today, for the first time in for-ev-er.”

“That’s nice. Friends are important. Were you drinking?”

“Well, yeah, we had a couple beers.”

“Were you safe? Did you wear masks?”

“Well, we … no.” (Pulse rising, brow beginning to sweat.) “Buuuuut he’s totally been tested and he’s not sick and neither am I … and I haven’t been around anybody else … and plus we sat outside, and the wind was sort of blowing, and we didn’t get more than 6 ….OK, maybe 4 feet from each other, at any t….”

And that’s when it hit me.

As we bid our farewells in the driveway, I’d totally Garth Brooks’d Jakob.

For those who missed the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration: To Garth Brooks a person is to be so in the moment and overwhelmed by emotion that you forget the mask thing, as the country music icon did while making his exit after singing “Amazing Grace.” First he hugged the Obamas, then the Clintons, then George W. and Laura Bush.

“I am not missing my chance to hug 3 presidents in 3 minutes,” tweeted Brooks, in response to the brouhaha his pandemic snafu sparked on social media ... which begs a question about the mechanics of hugging, which I’m pretty sure can be done while wearing a mask.

Watch the video, and you’ll see a moment of hesitation before the masked former presidents and first ladies accept the affection from the unmasked Brooks. But accept it, they do.

As a masked Jakob did, from an unmasked me.

Because ... etiquette? Fear of hug-shaming? Or because of some deeper human urge — a default that’s not very smart, at all, in pandemic times, but that might help us heal in the long run?

Or maybe Mom was right, and it was the beer.


Stephanie Earls is a news reporter and columnist at The Gazette. Before moving to Colorado Springs in 2012, she worked for newspapers in upstate NY, WA, OR and at her hometown weekly in Berkeley Springs, WV, where she got her start in journalism.

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