"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves." --Rainer Maria Rilke (©julenisse/Fotolia)

Friday, January 08, 2021

Who Was That (Un)Masked Man?

He’s no hero, not in my book. He may be a bit of a lone ranger, though, bucking the rules, defying our community ethos, ignoring the signs – Thou Shalt Wear a Mask. 

I put a cauliflower in the cart and stare at the vegetables. I’ve grabbed some chicken breasts, a pork roast, a filet of salmon. What will I fix with them? 

I don’t have much of a list. It’s been that kind of week, this first week of the new year. There’s organizing to be done. Decorations to put away. A webinar. Goals to my agent. An editing job. A writing deadline. 

On Wednesday they stormed the Capitol. 

I’m in such a fog I’ve forgotten to bring a face mask to the grocery store for the first time since this all started. Shit. Then I remember the handful of disposables I shoved in the glove box a while back. Just in case. 

Just in case what? Just in case there was a riot at the Capitol in the city where I was born and I was too shocked and sad to make sure I had a mask and a proper grocery list? 

I’m grateful to have the disposable mask. It’s lighter weight and easier to breathe in than my cloth masks. I like it. I don’t feel claustrophobic. It has a little wire to bend across the bridge of my nose and my glasses don't fog up for once. 

A tall stranger invades my space, reaching in front of me for the asparagus. I step back. He sidesteps closer to me. Passive aggressive. His face mask barely covers his upper lip.

“You need to pull up your mask,” I say, before thinking.

“Oh? Why’s that?” 

Blasé. No eye contact. Choosing his asparagus. 

“Because it’s not covering your nose.”


“So... your nose and your breath are exposed. And you’re too close to me.” I’m annoyed and emboldened. 

“Then move,” he says. I’ve already stepped back twice. 

“I was here first,” I say. “You butted right in front of me.”

“I said, ‘excuse me,’” he claims. 

Did he? Like that somehow makes it okay. He’s enjoying this. 

“Don’t be a pig,” I say.

“Have a nice day!” He sashays off with a smirk. 

I’m shaking, wondering why I felt the need for confrontation, and trying to figure out what I will say if I run into him in Aisle 12. I’m angry at a man nearby, standing next to the melons, fully masked, staring at me but not lending support. Maybe I am the lone ranger. The self-appointed mask police. 

The truth is I’ve had it. The combination of Wednesday in D.C., more than 365,000 Covid deaths, and not hugging my kids for a year have put me over the edge. I am sick of selfishness and entitlement and the-rules-don’t-apply-to-me mentality. I really do get that people are outraged and scared and even hopeless, but geez…

I also get that the rare person can’t wear a face mask because of some physical ailment or psychological trauma. 

This wasn’t that. He enjoyed his little taunt, his game of cat and mouse. I played into it and lost, allowing him to get the better of me. 

If it happens again, I will do my darnedest to exercise restraint, wheel my cart around, mind my own business, and head for the cheese counter. 

When I get to the checkout, the teenage boy scanning the contents of my cart says, “Did you find everything okay?” 

I do not tell him I lost my mind in the produce aisle. 

The grocery store is no place to try to change the world. 


  1. You are my hero...how many times have I sucked down similar words. Stay positive my friend and don't let these aholes get you down. They are a dime a dozen and you are one in a million! Hugs

  2. I feel your pain Mary. Great piece.


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