“Are you waiting in line?”

“Yes, didn’t I see you before? We had discussed mask-wearing. (‘An overabundance of caution is our undoing,’ Aug. 13.) I’m Martha, the mask-wearer!”

“I remember our heated conversation. I’m still NOT wearing a mask!”

“As I said, ‘the virus isn’t done with you.’ Aren’t you Mr. Balentine from The Forecaster?”

“Yes. Did you like my latest column?” (“This country needs a miracle,” Oct. 8.)

“Not really. You mentioned 11 problems with our ‘dire employment situation,’ but cited no solutions.”

“I don’t write about solutions. You have any?”

“Yes! President Biden has a ‘Build Back Better’ agenda, with two bills dedicated to investments in social spending and infrastructure. And he is mandating vaccinations to reduce hospitalizations and death from COVID-19.”

“Yeah, but Republicans said these bills will increase our national debt. And most Republicans don’t support mask/vaccine mandates!”

“Mr. Balentine, what about the huge tax cuts given to the rich/corporations by the Republicans? What benefit did average citizens get from these tax cuts? None! Now, if these two bills pass and 90% of Americans are fully vaccinated, their combined effect would solve six of the 11 problems you wrote about.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“Hear me out. Adults (Point 4) and children/schools (Point 6) would be safer when a majority of citizens are fully vaccinated. If these bills passed, money would be available for child care assistance (Point 7), installation of broadband to support at-home workers (Point 10) and tuition-free community college to help workers gain better skills (Points 3 and 8). Instead of always touting our problems, you should write about solutions: Republicans working with Democrats to help average Americans!”

Balentine, turning red, steps back, turns and leaves. He is overheard muttering: “I’ll never shop in Brunswick again!”

John M. Mishler