People are still talking about Chris Rock’s smack in the face. But what about mine?

People are still talking about Chris Rock’s smack in the face. But what about mine?

One night last week, I ventured into a crowded indoor space in San Francisco to hear live music for the first time in two years. Being further deafened by a 1990s-vintage punk rock band in the company of fellow aging, thrilled-to-be-there (or anywhere), totally vaccinated fans was a euphoric but uneventful foray into the post-pandemic.

That is to say, it couldn’t possibly last.

Unfortunately, as the euphoric will, I decided to prolong the celebration in less auspicious surroundings: a nearby, unusually full bar that was considerably more dicey than the show, and not just because the staff failed to mount even a pretense of interest in anyone’s immunization status.

By the time I left, in what proved to be a highly entertaining story for my friends and family for all of three days, I had been unceremoniously smacked in the face.

What little interest remained in my own facial strike abruptly dissipated when, as you may have heard, a very famous person smacked another famous person in the face during a much-better-known showcase of the performing arts.

I have nothing to contribute to the robust discourse surrounding Chris Rock’s Oscars night slap and only a little more information about mine. Like the comedian, I was more bemused than upset in the immediate aftermath. Unlike him, I can’t be accused of insensitivity to any medical condition other than the acute inebriation of my assailant.

Since the man bought me a pretty nice glass of Japanese whiskey not long beforehand and went on to also hit my concert-going companion in the face — twice — the violence seems to have had a lot more to do with him than me. But his grievance, if he had one, remains obscure.

In fact, in the course of repeatedly retelling my story in the fleeting moments allowed me by Will Smith, I was reminded of another, forgotten assault on my visage years ago. It was about as startling, amusing and fundamentally unexplained, apart from also being in the vicinity of a San Francisco bar at closing time. As far as my friends and I could figure, that aggressor had simply mistaken me for someone else.

Despite the reflexive desire to understand the motive for any smack upside the head, after all, there just aren’t many good reasons to hit a person. Often, there’s no reason at all.

Much of pre-pandemic life is as difficult to fathom and dimly retained as a belligerent stranger’s insult. Sure, we think we can’t wait to get back to our bars and concerts, our restaurants and offices — back to the before times we lazily file under “normal.” We long for what preceded a disaster even if we hardly remember what that was. And part of what’s normal is being inexplicably slapped in the face.

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