As the kids say these days, I “did a thing” last week.

I went to a lunch meeting for a group I belong to.

For the first time in nearly a year, I was in a social situation of more than three or four people.

Back in the good old days, this meeting featured a buffet lunch.

We would dip our pinto beans and mashed potatoes, hand each other the ladles, share the hot sauce bottle, pass the salt, sit shoulder to shoulder, and yuck it up.

It’s funny how that kind of behavior seems kind of primitive after a year of virtual isolation.

Last week’s meeting featured a box lunch, which is a business euphemism for cold sandwich and potato chips.

Now, I like a sandwich as much as the next guy, but I prefer the pintos and potatoes.

I put on the ol’ mask and went in. I felt kind of silly wearing one to an event where I would be eating, but I figured I would continue to do my part as much as possible.

Four other people spread out with me around a large round table.

Mama said she knew her mental state was starting to deteriorate when she would be in Sunday school and not be able to contribute to the discussion. “I just sat there against the wall the whole time with this dumb look on my face,” she would say.

That’s kind of the way I felt. We all know I’m not the world’s biggest social animal by any means, but I can usually manage to contribute to the conversation every now and then.

I was simply out of practice. That’s all there is to it. At least I hope that’s all there is to it.

But it quickly became obvious that small talk wasn’t the only thing I was out of practice with.

When a friend walked by and spoke to me, I replied.

Except I replied with a mouthful of potato chips which promptly spewed into my lap.

Don’t talk with your mouth full — the eleventh commandment — had escaped me entirely. I’d completely forgotten how to do that little maneuver where you put your hand over your mouth, wave with the other and nod.

I was still picking little chip chunks out of my lap when the program started.

At least it gave me something to do since I couldn’t take part in the table conversation.

When I finished eating, I put the mask back on. Then when I wanted another sip of iced tea, I would take it off, take a sip, and put it back on. That’s certainly not something I hope I have to try to get used to doing.

I was paranoid the whole time that I was going to forget to take it off before I tried to take a drink, but I managed not to do that.

This predicament isn’t over. We’re not out of the woods yet, but the outlook does seem more promising.

But when it is over, I cannot wait to dip up some pinto beans, hand you the ladle with my grubby little paws and talk your ear off about what all I’ve been up to.

And I’ll try to say it and not spray it.

(About the writer: Barry Currin is founder and President of White Oak Advertising and Public Relations, based in Cleveland, Tennessee. “Stories of a World Gone Mad” is published weekly. Visit Email him at