I had my first full on Coronavirus induced panic attack the other day when I had to do something that I haven’t done in weeks: go to a mall.
I needed to get my eyeglasses adjusted. It seemed simple. I packed my antibacterial wipes. I arrived right when the store opened. I wore my mask.
I was prepared and protected.
For many people, the choice to wear a mask is simple—Just do it. It’s painless and responsible. For some, it’s polarizing.
We have all seen that troubling Costco video. The employee tries to tell the customer he needs to wear a mask in the store. The customer tells the employee that he’s not going to wear a mask because “[he] woke up in a free country,” and the employee politely takes the cart away from him.
At the mall, I wanted to follow the rules. I didn’t want to be like that man.
When I arrived, it was eerily quiet inside. Some stores were opening, but many were not. Some shoppers were wearing masks, but many were not.
The nice lady who greeted me at the eyeglasses store was wearing a mask and gloves. She did everything she could to make me feel comfortable. And it worked.
Then, after only a few minutes, the store became busy. Very busy.
I will give her credit. She and the other employees were doing everything they could to keep themselves and their customers safe. But I didn’t want to stick around for too long. I got my eyeglasses and left to grab a few baseball caps from the next store.
Here’s where it got weird.
As I walked to the next store, I started realizing just how many people were not wearing masks. In the hat store, all the employees were masked, but many customers were not.
I said to the salesperson, this must be difficult for you with all these people not wearing masks. She replied, “You can’t believe how many people are not wearing masks. It makes me nervous.”
That’s when it started to hit me. I needed to leave—now.
To make matters worse, as I walked out of the store, an entire family not wearing masks walked right by me. They were way too close. I stopped, frozen in my tracks. Then the dad actually pointed at me when he saw the anxiety in my eyes, and he laughed at me.
I could not get to the car fast enough. I just sat there for a few minutes to calm down.
Men’s Health has a piece called, “Your Face Mask is Actually a Sign of Strength.” Men, it seems, are less likely to wear masks because they believe masks are somehow shameful or embarrassing. There’s even some scientific findings that prove men more often underestimate the risks of certain activities than women do.
I’ve spoken about masks before on this blog. In my other post, I wrote about their fashionable qualities and how they might become part of our every day lives for a while. But after this experience, I know for certain that they will be a part of mine.
Unfortunately, I think the divide over whether or not to wear a mask will be part of our lives, too.
Although my first real trip out of the house to be among people was not terribly successful—pretty awful, really—I’m going to keep wearing a mask. I just am. I think it is the right thing to do. With that said, I’m have to get used to others not wearing them.
I’m supposed to go to a restaurant soon. I’ll let you know how that goes.