Let’s get down to some brass tacks, whaddya say? You know, lower the polite facades we keep and admit to a few social indiscretions.
I know, I know. No one likes to be judged. But I promise that you are in a safe place here today. After disclosure, we’ll only snicker about you during pillow talk with our significant others. Well, or whomever else might be sharing that pillow.
What I’m looking for are some recent examples of times when you might have stuck out like a sore thumb in a public setting. I’m not referring to one of those Allen Funt, “caught-in-the-act-of-being-yourself” moments. No, that’s way too comical. Instead, I’m looking for more of a “Dear G-d, what have I f’n done?” type of faux pas; the kind where you’re back to being age 11, and all you want to do is melt through floorboards and hope that no one will ever see you again. Why? Because, of course, this is precisely what happened to me recently.
I sneezed in public. Loudly. People looked at me. It was embarrassing. I felt 11. I also felt 50, but that’s probably best explained in a separate post.
Try as we may in this hour of awkward reemergence, our forays into public spaces aren’t going as smoothly as some of us would like. Was the CDC a might hasty in establishing that new mask guidance of theirs? I have no idea; I’m not a virologist. But I do know that I’m never sure how to act anymore when I go into places. For a whole year it was easy: I wore a mask everywhere. That was quite helpful because doing so hid the acne which constantly formed from wearing the damn things.
But now things aren’t as simple. We’re told, for instance, that if we’ve had our vaccine shots we no longer need to wear one unless we’re at a doctor office, while traveling on a plane, bus, or train, or while inside a Victoria’s Secret.
Okay I made up that last one, though it’s not a bad idea. If you’re a husband who always feels uncomfortable being dragged there while your wife spends what feels like hours sifting though endless displays of unmentionables, wearing a mask takes your mind off the fact that you have no idea where to put your hands.
Speaking of businesses, certain ones are requesting that you continue to wear masks. As with you too I bet, I still carry one around with me because I’m never sure about the rules. Sometimes I put it on simply because I’m around others who wear them, even though we’re all ostensibly in a place where it’s not required. I do so to be considerate. But then I worry that everyone else will see me as someone who’s decided not to get the vaccine. It can be exhausting if you allow it to be. And I do.
Which brings us back to that sneeze I mentioned earlier.
Public displays of sneezes and coughs have been metaphoric landmines over the last year. We’ve adjusted to artfully (or not) scamper from them to what we believe will be safer environs, all the while silently maligning the guilty party for his or her’s shameless action. “I would never do something like that” after all.
But I did. In public, loudly, and with several heads turning to look at me afterwards.
I blame the overhead ceiling fans at our gym, which is where this incident took place. The old facility simply relied on normal air flow via a ventilation system designed for commercial use. People probably still sneezed there also, but I definitely didn’t think about it prior to entering the building. Now, however, I’m immediately uncomfortable under these huge fans at this new place because they blow down hard as I’m huffing and puffing away on the elliptical. The combination of my own perspiration, along with the blowing draft from above, makes both my head and nose constantly tingle.
Gorgeous just laughs at me when I complain about it on the way home. She says that she likes the fans.
Bully for her.
One morning last week, all the elements created a perfect storm in my nasal passages. I tried focusing on the stock market ticker on the TV above my machine, hoping that if I concentrated hard enough on the Dow and Nasdaq performance at that very moment, I could somehow avoid blowing a hooley. But it was all for naught. Although I brought up my arm quickly enough to muffle and stop the spray, the sound of my sneeze was still loud enough so that every head within shouting distance turned in my direction.
There wasn’t so much scattering (people were also on machines after all) as there was that universal expression of disgust on all the nearby faces.
“I would never do something like that.“
I kept my head down for the duration of the workout. Listening to “When Doves Cry” never felt so validating. Lest anyone keeping an eye on me, I made an extra special effort to wipe down my machine afterwards. As we’ve been told countless times over the last year, we’re all in this together. Right? Just say yes, it’ll make me feel better.
I haven’t returned to the gym since. I’m hoping that the longer I wait, the less the chances are that anyone will recognize me. You’re allowed to think like that when you’re only 11.
So just wave and keep your distance if you see me at the gym. I’ve had my shots, of course, but why take a chance?
Until next time…