A way to be safer rather than sorry

Kim McKinney

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Dear guy in the parking lot who laughed at me for wearing a mask,

It's OK. Well, it's really not OK, but you made me think.

You didn’t look at me in anger, or appear threatening to me in any way. The wrinkles around your eyes showed that you have laughed often in your life.Your face also showed your life probably has not been easy.

For some reason, you found it funny I was wearing a mask. I believe you might have pitied me. Possibly for being what you would call a sheep?

I didn't hear all you said, because your Southern accent was strong, your voice quiet, and you were snickering. Possibly you thought a mask wasn’t needed because I was outside, maybe because no one else was within six feet of me, maybe because you are a conspiracy theorist, maybe it is a political thing, maybe the thought of wearing it creates anxiety and you don’t want to be alone, or maybe you because think the scientists and the medical community don’t know what the heck they are talking about. It doesn’t matter, really.

After passing me you walked by another woman getting out of her car. She was also masked. I didn’t hear what you said to her, but I clearly heard her response.

“I guess I’d rather be safe than sorry.”

I thought about you on my drive home. I wondered who you were and why this was a thing with you. I didn’t feel singled out. It appeared this was what you do.

I lost a friend to COVID-19 the weekend before last. I hadn’t even known she was sick. Last night I found out another friend has been in the hospital for 50 days fighting it. I hadn’t known about that either. She just moved to a rehab center, so she can learn how to walk again.

People like this probably haven't touched your life, have they?

When others have made negative comments to me in the past about masking, I felt the need to have conversations. To tell them stories about why it was important. I was feisty and direct, appealing to their humanity and sense of logic.

After many of these conversations, I am tired. I have learned that since your argument is not based on logic, a logical response will not change your mind.

At one time, for a few brief moments, I thought I wouldn’t care if anti-maskers got the virus. Perhaps they deserved it. I quickly realized I was wrong. I have seen anti-maskers get COVID and I cared they suffered.We all do and think stupid things sometimes. I didn’t want them in pain. And scared. Or dead.

The idea of anyone fighting to breathe breaks my heart. Breathing separates the living from the dead. To be at that brink must be terrifying. A few friends have shared their thoughts when in the midst of it. You could hear the fear.

I wish I could say I was perfect in my mask usage. Unfortunately, I am far from it. I get careless. I get tired of wearing it. I go to restaurants and bars and keep it off longer than necessary. I get complacent. Good people wouldn't put me at risk, right? That’s how I act sometimes, even knowing it is not true. They wouldn’t knowingly, but I have found that many still don’t understand very much about the disease.

The mask, the vaccination — they’re not just about me. They’re about you, too. Maybe especially about you. I’m at least taking some precautions. You are putting yourself out there with no protection. Oh, I don’t know you aren’t vaccinated but you didn’t seem the type. Forgive me if my assumption is wrong.

People like you used to make me angry. Even if there is a small chance you can keep others around you healthy, why wouldn’t you? Most of us hate wearing masks. I don’t consider it an infringement on my freedom. I don't wear one because of a mandate, I choose to mask because I care about the people around me. It gets easier if you do it.

I pity you. From our brief encounter, I suspect you would find it more insulting to be pitied than if my temper flared. I suspect you would have actually liked me to get angry and rise to your bait. But I refuse. I am tired of arguing. For now.

You didn't seem the type who would willingly hurt someone, but for whatever reason you are making a choice that increases your risk to do so.

I hate wearing a mask but do. It’s a small thing, and I am still going out in public. I want to protect others. When I first started wearing one, they said it wouldn’t protect the one who wore it much at all. They have since reversed that and believe it does. It seemed logical to me it would protect me at least a little, but even if it didn’t protect me at all, I wanted to protect others around me.

So yes sir, I wear a mask often. Last year a relative of mine was among the first in his area to be put in intensive care for the coronavirus in the U.K. They know he infected 26 people during that time. One thing we know about the virus is that some of those people surely infected others and spread it. They didn’t know better or were unable to get proper personal protection devices (PPD) back then. There was a reason it happened.

Those reasons have diminished. We know better now — we know the power of the mask. Or we should. Study after study has said masking combined with social distancing helps flatten the curve.

I have a question for you. There are a lot of causes to stand up for in this world. Things that matter. Why is ridiculing mask wearers a cause to which you devote time?

At one time I would have felt anger towards you, but now I believe you just don’t realize the implications of your actions. I believe you are scared and life has thrown a curve ball you have never seen before. This is the way you deal with it.

I wish you well, sir. I hope that amusement is not wiped off your face. I hope you stay healthy. I hope others you love stay healthy, too. We’ve lost too many to this monster.

You matter. I am your neighbor, who will try to protect you whether you respect my effort or not.

With best wishes,

Kim

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I love stories of people and places and enjoy telling these stories. I live in my hometown of Statesville, NC, in the Charlotte area, and love to show how lovely life is here. More is going on than may meet the eye. I also enjoy expanding throughout North Carolina to show the places and activities and people that make me believe life is fascinating and travel as much as I can, so write about that, too. I also have a passion for justice and a special interest in accessible healthcare, including treatment for drug and alcohol dependency. I am a woman of faith, joy, laughter, adventure, and live life to the full. Follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/kimmckinney719 or my blog KimberleyMcKinney.com or https://kimmckinney719.medium.com.

Statesville, NC
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