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.)

Ceredwyn and Bryan magic masksCeredwyn and Bryan magic masks

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 unmasked 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.

(thanks to keen eyed Noni Korf for one edit)

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

  1. linda says:

    I took a drive today in the mountains of Tennessee/Virginia/West Virginia near the Cumberland Gap with my dog. I went into a small town convenient store to get a drink. I had my mask on. I have had breast cancer twice and am an old lady. I am not taking any chances. At least ten people came in and out of that store while I was in there. I was the only one with a mask on. The cashier had her’s down around her chin. There was no social distancing. They looked at me like I was stupid old lady. There was a small sign at the door that asked that you not go in if you know you have been exposed to Covid-19. I do not know if this is lack of knowledge or a “fuck you” attitude. This is the south. But the only thing I can do is take care of myself. Looks like we are going to be doing this for a very long time.

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      Neither masks nor social distancing? This sounds like an area ripe for infection.

      PS: please take care. We need you.

  2. Maybe there are such people here in Canada but I haven’t been seeing them. Everyone I see – young, old, whatever – is wearing a mask, at least while they’re doing things like going to the drug store.

  3. Sarah says:

    It sounds like you may have encountered the same woman I was on a flight with when I went to Indiana back in July before Indiana got banned by Governor Murphy in NJ. She didn’t feel it was important to fully mask up (over the nose) until I showed her a picture of my now-nine month old and basically pleaded with her, super politely. American Airlines had just suspended the every-other-seat edict, so I was already on edge. :-/ The flight attendant came over during my plea and reiterated it.

    It reminds me of a meme that’s been going around. It reads “I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care about other people.”

  4. Lisa Durff says:

    Two suggestionsL 1) Buy a treadmill, have it delivered, set up in your house 2) Have your meds delivered
    One can never be too careful as the crazies are everywhere!

  5. Greg Dillingham says:


    Rights, responsibilities and reactions. This is what our journeys outside the safety of our personal sanctuaries calls into question. Ones personal need for extrinsic validation is only exacerbated by societies COVID protection recommendations.

    Our vocational framework ensures that we have clearly defined and expected social interactions, not so our personal or avocations pursuits.

    So sorry to hear about your interaction and kudos on choosing not to escalate the situation. Safe wishes to you and yours.

  6. Graham Mulligan says:

    Unfortunately social distancing and masking are not being practiced in many parts of BC. Are we seeing the results of COVID-fatigue or is this something different, kind of like the ’fuck you’ in Bryan’s account. I fear that some proportion of people are on the spectrum of ODD (Opposition Defiant Disorder) and will oppose social distancing and mask wearing as an impulsive action. Others will follow because they are afraid of challenging the impulsive lead of such people.

  7. Glen McGhee says:

    Now you know why I rarely go out. That, and a Hurricane pounding the window panes now.
    It would be better if there where dispensers at entrances with FREE MASKS, everywhere — then, all you would do is POINT and there’d be NO NEED to say a word. Just point!
    People in my county are so poor (especially after Hurricane Michael), they cannot afford masks. Especially re: Covid.
    Certainly, this double-catastrophe is coloring my view of Covid-collapse — because like with Katrina, we saw the social fabric tear and fray after Hurricane Michael, without the hope of repair. My house is still in repairs after two years, and the FBI just arrested our mayor AND the City of Lynn Haven attorney. It feels like the end of the world here.
    Wait ’til we get a double-dose of hurricanes coming off the Gulf of Mexico. VERY unpredictable.

  8. Nancy says:

    According to the CDC, masks do work. Then again they also said masks don’t work. Each week it’s something different. I have yet to find someone trust the masks. I live in Texas and people only wear a mask to get into the store. Can you really trust a mask that is used then put into the purse or pick-up then used again and again????

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