I don’t wear a mask to send a message, make a statement, or declare party or religious loyalties. I wear a mask because I’m plain terrified.
I’m a senior citizen with cancer. My immune system is out of whack, and my blood counts are low. If I catch COVID-19, it could kill me.
I do what I can to reduce my risk. I avoid everyone except my spouse and medical practitioners. I wash my hands. I use hand sanitizer. And I always wear masks in public.
I was wearing one the other day when I went for a walk near Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. A man in his 30s or 40s walked toward me on the sidewalk. Nothing about the way he was dressed would have made me look twice, but he wasn’t wearing a mask, so I had a clear view of his pug nose and bristly blond beard. As we passed, I stepped aside to keep six feet between us. He glared at me, suddenly veered toward me and spat in my face.
I was terrified. Oh crap, after being so careful, what if I get the virus? What if I get sick and die?
I was also angry. I didn’t go through chemo, targeted drug therapies, radiation, a clinical trial and surgeries galore just so some random stranger could kill me with a loogie.
I was wearing glasses, so my eyes were shielded, and a four-layer mask, so my nose and mouth were covered. And COVID-19 is not transmitted through the skin, thank God. Still, I washed my face as soon as I got home and used sanitizer for good measure. So even if that man had COVID-19 (and I sincerely hope he doesn’t), I hope my exposure was minimal.
My friends are telling me that spitting on someone is an assault, and I should report it to the police. And maybe I will. Not to put the guy in jail (there’s no chance that would happen) but to leave a record that behavior is occurring in the community that endangers people like me.
I get it that people are not required to wear masks out of doors. And for the most part, people who don’t wear masks are pretty good about stepping aside and maintaining six feet of distance.
But I’ve seen the dirty looks that some mask-less people give me, that silently suggest, “You get out of MY way — I am coming straight down the middle of the sidewalk, and I’m not giving up one inch for you!”
And from the way this man glared at me and lunged toward me when I tried to step out of his way, I think he spat at me to show his contempt for me and my mask.
If he knew I’m a senior with cancer, a wife, aunt, Christian, writer, Midwesterner, “Star Trek” fan, would he want to spit on me? But most likely it never occurred to him that I’m any of those things. All he saw was the mask.
I would like to say to him: I don’t know what my mask means to you. But what it means to me is: I am living with serious health challenges, and I’m scared.
I am not your enemy, just an old lady with cancer who is scared.