Today’s COVID-19 anecdote: an encounter with the maskless

We just had an intense experience. Consider it a small narrative of the pandemic, a tiny COVID-19 socialization datapoint.

Earlier this afternoon my wife and I walked to the nearest drugstore to buy meds. Also, I really needed a walk. (Not Ceredwyn. She easily does 6–10 miles/day.)

It was a good walk, if hot in the August sun of Virginia.

We got to the Walgreen’s, found the meds, and brought them up to the counter. The cashier rang them up and I started paying. Ceredwyn stood nearby, socially distanced. Both of us were masked, as was the lone cashier.

A person came up behind me, forming a line. I didn’t pay attention to them. I didn’t turn around and couldn’t have told you how far away they were at that moment.

At the counter I made a payment error (somehow put the card in backwards) and had to re-enter it. No problem, easily done.

The person behind me sighed theatrically. Then they started complaining loudly — shouting, really — about there not being enough cashiers in the store. I ignored this and focused on the credit card machine. In a moment the device successfully ingested my funds and I turned around.

Behind me was a younger woman, maybe 25 years old. She stood two feet behind me. She was not wearing a mask.

Normally when I find myself in stores I’m pretty quiet or genial. I like to observe, do my business, and get out. But this situation shocked me into a different attitude. Her being masked surprised me, since I thought masking up was a state and business requirement. Her standing so close raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I said to her, “No cashiers — how about no mask?”

She shrugged elaborately, adding energetically: “Oh well!”

I was horrified. In response, I actually snarled, “In a plague?”

She fell silent.

At that moment… I decided to leave. I was keyed up, pissed off, anxious, and not in a good mood for a polite conversation. I didn’t think that person was, either. I feared nothing positive would come out of a further exchange and didn’t like the combination of anger and dread boiling up within me. I realized Ceredwyn had already sidled away, towards the drugstore’s exit.

So I grabbed my purchases and stomped off to follow my wise wife, fast.

Coda: when we returned home I told this story to my son. He was horrified, and concerned I’d been infected.

(cross-posted to my blog)