We did our first ‘lockdown’ Costco shop in early March. (we do a regular once-a-month bulk-goods shop there)
We were the only one’s in the entire place wearing masks, (and gloves – which we don’t use anymore, but use soapy cloths that are immediately washed, instead – soap breaks down the virus protein) including the staff. (there was one other bloke, however, who came in with a full gas-mask-and goggles-and-gloves combo) Those were the days when no-one knew, at least in our neck of the woods, how virulent or transmissible the virus was.
Every stare that turned our way varied between incredulous, scathing, pitying, etc. Most people studiously avoided making eye contact with the crazy plague-rumour-mongers.
To say that we felt uncomfortable was an understatement. Not only did we experience that initial ’emegherd I’m going to suffocate!!!’ sensation when wearing masks for the first time, we also were very aware of those ‘slings and arrows’ being cast our way from the other shoppers. All we knew was that we were both in the ‘at-risk’ category and weren’t going to take any chances.
Each month there were a few more mask-wearers. We’d nod politely to each other, making sure we were two meters apart at all times, while some other (unmasked) shoppers would make a point of passing by even closer than they normally would. (I mean, what kind of dipshit arsehole do you have to be to do that on purpose? – rhetorical question, I know)
‘Normal’ – there’s a word that’s never going to have the same meaning again.
Scientific evidence slowly revealed more of the nature of the beast.
The global infection rates climbed, as did the global death-toll. (over 16 million people are confirmed to have been infected world-wide as of midnight last night – PDT)
Almost every government on the planet dropped the ball, big time, and most, to their credit, eventually, picked it up again.
Last month about a third of all the shoppers in Costco were wearing masks. Everyone looked uncomfortable – the wearers of masks and the un-wearers of masks.
But, a change was in the air.
The long-term reality of this plague sinking in, I suspect.
I felt a knot of tension in my gut that reared its head every time I went into a shop or enclosed public space, unravel, just a little bit.
Yesterday’s shop was, interesting.
About half the shoppers wore masks. I didn’t spot anyone wearing it under their nose, or chin.
We mask-wearers have learned to ‘eye-read’.
We smiled at each other, a camaraderie of shared responsibility, not just for ourselves but for the unknown health-status of others.
It was a good feeling.
I looked into the eyes of those who weren’t wearing masks. As best I could anyway, because this time no-one was making eye-contact, at all. Their brows were furrowed in a sort of defiant desperation.
Peer pressure, whether internally or externally imposed, is a fearsome thing, particularly when someone’s not ready to engage with the knowledge that they’re going to have to change their sense of their Self … It’s not just the actual wearing of a mask, it’s all the reasons why they chose not to in the first place, and how loudly they touted those reasons, and who they touted them to.
Like just about everything that sets off our flight/fight/fright knee-jerk response, reality is nowhere as universe-ending as we imagine it to be. Who knows, we may all come to appreciate learning how to ‘eye-read’.