I keep having to tell myself that: It’s not about me, I say. And then fifteen seconds later it becomes about me again. Pretty silly, isn’t it?
When I go outside wearing a mask, I can’t breathe. I get light-headed; there’s a tightness in my chest; I get dizzy. My lungs are going like a bellows in a steel mill and my heart’s like a jackhammer. It’s called a panic attack, they tell me, though like Paul Vitti I object strongly to that term. To me, it’s that I’m overheating and can’t get enough air. That will always be my private interpretation, no matter that my brain tells me otherwise.
Tomorrow, for only the third time since this mess started, I’m going out in public in one of the Red Zone counties. On my way back from Chicago some months ago I caught something and for the life of me I can’t tell if it was COVID-19; it’s just as likely it was that nasty H3N2 influenza that’s been going around. I plan to meet someone who’s been designated Essential ever since this mess started.
It’s important or I wouldn’t do it. You might not agree if you knew my reasons, but that part actually isn’t about you.
What is, is this: I’m wearing a mask. We’ll stay several feet apart, and in the open air. We’ll have our meeting, and if I’m very lucky I’ll get something to write about, some inspiration or a new way of looking at the world.
I wear the mask because it’s not about me. If it were, please believe me when I tell you I’d much rather take my chances with a ventilator than face the certainty of what happens when I wear a mask. Facing death sucks and pain and medical suffering are awful and the expense of a hospital stay is horrific, but I understand and acknowledge all this and tell you all the same that I’d much prefer to take my chances. They drug you when you’re intubated, and I need my wits sharp tomorrow so I’m not even taking a shot of whisky to settle my nerves.
But it’s not about me. In small part it’s about the safety of the person I’m meeting, though given his/her line of work that’s pretty damn silly. More important are those few people I may meet while we’re out, though that too is unlikely to be an issue here. Mostly it’s the signal that I’ll send wearing it: Like everyone else in my county, I’m in the same mess they are. I don’t go out to work; I’m non-essential, so I don’t need to do this every day of the week. Wearing a mask is the very least I can do for those who must. It’s courteous.
I believe strongly in the value of courtesy. Without it those who disagree will never be able to converse. Without it, the world as we know it crumbles.
Then again, I’ve long believed people would be far more courteous if only dueling were legal and everyone carried swords. So it’s probably just as well that this isn’t all about me, or you might just get stabbed. (This is also the main reason I don’t walk around with a sword.)
Stay safe, people. Wash your hands. And if I can wear a mask, so can you.
The replica rapier pictured can be purchased at Fabri Armorum.
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