The two masked women manning the receptionist desk at St Clair Medical Hospital sounded solemn when they asked, “Why are you here today?” This was two weeks ago. “To get a blood test and chest x-ray,” I said. “You’ve been sick,” the asked. “Yes,” I replied. “Have you traveled out of the country recently,” one woman asked. “No, not for over a year.” I am looking past the receptionists at all the people mulling around in the reception area. Moving people fascinate me after I have been sick.
“Do you have a cough,” the receptionist asked. “I did. Not much now.” She handed me a mask and said “Put this on.” I hesitated because I didn’t see anyone else wearing a mask. Still, I obeyed. My glasses steamed up, but I could still see everyone staring at me. I walked through the hospital to the area for blood tests. Still didn’t see anyone wearing a mask, except myself and hospital workers.
I smiled although no one could see me. I got the blood tests done quickly, but waited almost two hours for a chest x-ray. Finally, I heard a woman laughing and coaxing an elderly woman to come into the waiting room. “Look, someone here has a mask on,” the woman said in all her glee. “Come and look.” That someone was me the woman was talking about.
I leaped to my feet to peak around the corner. The woman said, “My mom was wondering why only she has a mask on.”
“No, I have on one too,” I said, as though no one could spot my mask. “We are comrades. I thought it was only me wearing a mask.” “Why only the two of us?” the woman asked. She tried to adjust her mask. I wanted to say, “You get used to it.”
“Maybe they’re trying to protect old people,” I said. The elderly woman said, “No, I think I have to wear this because I said I coughed.” Oh, I confessed to that too, I told here as I laughed.
By then I didn’t mind wearing this mask. The anonymity was nice. I liked not having to hide a scowl. If the mask protected someone or me, it was no big deal to wear it. Not really.
After my tests, I went to the St Clair Pharmacy, which is outside of the hospital. I thought about taking off the mask, but decided if they told me to wear it in their hospital, I should wear it in their pharmacy. The man in front of me was trying to buy masks. The pharmacist laughed. “We don’t have any. They’re hard to get.” I felt a bit guilty.
When I went to the car, I removed the mask because I didn’t want to feel like a bandit driving around with a mask on, even though I figured it would help me with the Sahara dust, which triggered the coughing. All of a sudden a strange feeling washed over me. I thought: things might never be the same again. The masked me just might be the face of the future.
I’m glad that everyone is paying so much attention to the coronavirus, but we are really not doing anything we shouldn’t be doing all the time during flu season. Practising good hygiene is not a seasonal affair – or at least it shouldn’t be.
We should all avoid touching our noses, lips or eyes. It is appalling how often basic rule of hygiene are violated in public places. It’s good that banks and businesses now send out e-mails about how they are sanitising door handles and counters regularly, but this should always be done.
We should wash our hands thoroughly and constantly. We used to take a lot more precautions with our health. I can remember a time when no one felt guilty to be sick. When did we start pushing ourselves to go to work when we felt sick? When did everyone become suspicious when employees called in sick?
All the viruses circulating out there are brutal. They aren’t the coronavirus, but they’re no picnic, and each one feels worse to me. Maybe that’s just because they often hit elderly people the hardest.
I’m sorry for everyone who is suffering now financially while we fight this battle with the coronavirus, and I’m sorry for those who are sick or worried about being sick from this virus. Hang in there. If you’re home, I hope you have a great book to read. This is a life-changing time.