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Lincoln shoppers skittish as they venture forth without mask mandate
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Lincoln shoppers skittish as they venture forth without mask mandate

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Cindy Lange-Kubick has loved writing columns about life in her hometown since 1994. She had hoped to become a people person by now, nonetheless she would love to hear your tales of fascinating neighbors and interesting places.

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It wasn't quite what I expected inside the bright welcoming world of Target, COVID-19 cases dwindling, the mask mandate over and done.

I figured I’d see some covered faces and I understood why, but I thought the vaccinated throngs would be rejoicing Friday and, if not high-fiving in the bedding aisle, at least nodding and smiling.

You know, a shared sense of Viva la Lincoln!

Instead, we seemed skittish and unsure, visitors in a foreign land trying to figure out the customs and just how Chip and Joanna Gaines managed to commandeer an entire section of Texas-inspired crap in the middle of the store. (And if the store mannequins had always been devoid of facial features or was some sick marketing firm messing with us?)

The coming-out party was a combination of “good and weird,” KLIN radio host Jack Mitchell noted on Twitter. One that was hard to describe.

Kiley Ward agrees.

“It was really kind of strange just to go to all those places,” said Ward, who made his way into the retail world with a bare face Friday.

He felt fine mask-free on a visit to Menard’s, Ward said. He felt less fine stopping for take-out in a small BBQ joint and kept his distance, wondering how he was being perceived by his fellow citizens.

He was excited pushing a shopping cart at Super Saver and emotional seeing an actual smile from a “sweet old lady,” who needed help hauling down a couple of 2-liter bottles of pop.

But there was still that wary vibe between the Masked and the Unmasked.

“I just wanted to say ‘I’m vaccinated. I’m a good guy.’”

The science tells him he’s safe, he said. And that’s good enough for him.

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It was good enough for Kevin James, too, who walked into Target with all his facial features on display Monday, followed by his masked wife, Kelly, and their three masked kids, Austin, 15, Abigail, 10, and Addison, 7.

Kevin shed his mask as soon as he got the green light from public health officials.

“I’m there,” he said. “My wife is just a little more cautious than I am.”

Their teenager has one shot down and the second on the way, but the younger two are not yet eligible, so caution seems sensible, Kelly said.

“And I want to be a role model for them.”

The James family seems fine dwelling in Do As You See Fit territory.

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As am I. Plenty of friends and acquaintances are worried about variants, their children or their own (and their loved ones’) compromised immune systems. They aren’t shedding their masks anytime soon. I support them.

As my Target clerk told me at checkout: Everyone got the memo. It’s up to them.

Cindy Lange-Kubick: Ripping off the masks and what comes after

Eric Herbert got the memo from city hall and another from his bosses at Nelnet. That one said employees who were vaccinated were free to forget their masks at home when they returned to the office on May 17.

“We’re supporting a hybrid workforce,” said the information technologies director. “If you’ve fallen in love with being at home and are productive, we support that.”

Herbert is an extrovert, so he’s back in the office at least three days a week. (His introverted wife is happy to keep working in solitude.)

He loves the energy of the office, Herbert said. Running into co-workers and having a chat. “Those happy accidents don’t happen at home.”

But they're happening now.

Life is starting to feel ever more normal, he said Monday.

“Three of us went out to lunch today. It was kind of like a high school reunion.”

Gov. Pete Ricketts is ready for that reunion. Nebraska is Back in Business, he declared.

Ward and his wife, Kashoan, are ready.

They own Krafty Kash Designs — lovely handcrafted jewelry — and lost their pre-pandemic legs when the craft fairs and markets they traveled to were canceled in 2020.

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They’ll be showing their wares June 5 at Makit Takit, another small Lincoln business.

“I’m super excited,” Kiley Ward said. “This is going to allow our business to get going again.”

The couple remain happy to have done their part during the pandemic by keeping their distance and covering up their faces in crowded places.

But now?

Those masks that fogged up Kashoan’s glasses and overheated Kiley's bearded face?

“I’m sure glad I don’t have to wear it,” Kiley Ward said. “I hope to tuck mine in the back of a drawer and leave it there forever.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or clangekubick@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @TheRealCLK

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Columnist

Cindy Lange-Kubick has loved writing columns about life in her hometown since 1994. She had hoped to become a people person by now, nonetheless she would love to hear your tales of fascinating neighbors and interesting places.

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