I’m still working on getting my feet under me, as I transition home from the NIH. It’s been a few months since I dealt with “real life stuff”, and not “All Things Transplant” related. In some ways, like in hugging Andy, seeing the kitties, making tea in my own kitchen with Mom, and going for a walk at Bent Creek – it’s great. With other things – last minute schedule changes, meal planning, preventing a skittish cat from pooping in a non-pooping place, or my fatigue level – it’s less great.
Then there was the lady who choose not to wear a mask.
Maybe its the hormones & hot flashes (Debbie calls them Power Surges. Bless her). Or perhaps dealing with the stress of adjusting to home, or the bit of fear that still exists with post-transplant complications. Or, who knows? At times, there seems to be a lot. But by today’s afternoon foray into ALDI with Mom, I was on the verge of a Power Surge.
When I first saw the maskless lady, I just stared. And as someone who tends to avoid confrontation or even rocking the boat – I would have just ignored her. But this was just not okay and I was bothered. Enough so that I pulled an employee aside and asked if she could please ask the maskless lady to put on her mask. I took off my cap, using the Power of the Bald. It shouldn’t matter, but, it says something when someone in their 30s (ok, ok, nearly 40!), is clearly bald due to chemo. She looked at me, looked at my bald head and asked if I wanted to speak with her manager. I said yes please, and thank you.
The manager spoke briefly to me and said that she would ask the maskless woman to put on her face covering, unless there was a medical reason preventing her from doing so. I said thank you. While walking back towards Mom and our cart, I saw the conversation between the ALDI’s manager and woman who unhappily put on her face covering. It’s a small store. All seemed well.
Until, less than two minutes later, we turned the corner in search of Whole Kernel Sweet Corn (we are making turkey chili) – and there she was without her fucking mask. And it just so happened that, at that very moment, I had a Power Surge. Mom sensed it before it happened and prepared well. I swear that I grew four inches taller, abandoned the cart (again) and strode over to my Maskless-Non-Friend. Mom was close behind wielding our cart. I was angry. I removed my cap, bald head glowing. I thought a simple question would do.
“Would you mind telling me why you’re not wearing a mask?”
She looked up, surprised. Then stood up, affronted.
“Would you mind putting on your mask?” I plowed forward, taking advantage of her hesitation.
She paused and took a deep breath, her shrill response for someone so small was comical. “Why does everyone keep saying that? I’m almost ready to go! What do you want me to do, abandon my cart?” she asked, clearly angry.
I was about to respond with something nice like, no, you don’t need to do that…just please put on your mask.
But Mom beat me to it. “Yes! Just leave the store!”
Our Maskless-Non-Friend paused, turned on her heel while muttering under her breath, and marched out of the store. I felt queasy, and my knees were still shakey, not used to confrontation period. I looked around: there were a few mildly curious people, but most everyone continued with their shopping. All were wearing face masks. Mom and I offered words of encouragement to each other, I laughed weakly and we found the rest of our items, including the evasive corn.
I wanted to remember and write about this – it’s important. It’s not always fun to wear a mask, but I do it for both my health and the health of others. Currently, in my post-transplant life, I would be wearing a face mask even if we didn’t have a global pandemic. But I choose to wear a mask, as do Andy and Mom, because it’s the right thing to do. It is the legal thing to do. And in the words of a personal hero, Dr. Fauci, it’s the kind thing to do.
Additionally, I’m really proud of myself for speaking up. I would never approach another customer, and even asking to speak with a manager is tough for me. Simply stated, I don’t like rocking the boat or making trouble for anyone else. Last night, I wrote about not wanting to be a burden. Today though, I needed to speak out when I saw something that bothered me, when I saw something wrong. It wasn’t easy and it definitely wasn’t fun – but I’m really proud of myself for saying something even though it was uncomfortable. I’m really proud of myself for standing up for what is right. And I’m just as proud of Mom for being by my side and not sugar-coating her words, like I would have.
Thanks Mom – I love you and I’m grateful for you. And thank you Everyone for wearing your masks!