Isolation Diaries #3: people reacted to my DIY face mask

Last night I stayed up until 4 am. It happens often. I used my unsolicited wakefulness to get a few things done. Personal grooming was achieved and my eyebrows definitely have less heft to them now. I also sewed up some rips in my trousers. They have since reopened because I cannot sew. I blame my mother.

But my sewing attempts were not fruitless. You see, one of the trousers was beyond saving and I felt inspired to make a face mask for my weekly shopping trip. Right. Okay. Now listen: the ongoing debate about the efficacy of face masks is not what is being discussed here. This is also not a post about health and wellness, nor is it a post about DIY Queens. It is about wasted sleep and social power dynamics.

3 hours and four bleeding fingers later, I had a mask. It was… clumsy. And frayed. And wonky. But it was mine. It’s like in those survival games when you craft your first crappy item out of wood and dirt. Eventually, I will gain the skill points to make an actual mask, but will happily use my wonky abomination until then.

And use it I did. I went to Aldi. And myohmyyy, what an experience. I noticed a few things.

Firstly, I felt nervous for some reason. I used to wear a mask all the time when I lived in China. That was mainly for pollution but I also wore it when I was ill. It was nice. A lil’ nose cosy. But in the UK, I felt like I stood out. I felt like people would be jerks. I just felt anxious. I also felt embarrassed about my crappy mask. There was a lady who had a proper mask. Her skill points must’ve been higher. Or she had paid for one. I felt bad. I had worked hard on my wonky abomination though so I felt guilty for feeling bad. It’s like… guilt but also ego? But also FOMO? I have hangups about homemade things apparently.

Anyway, those were just initial butterflies. List in hand, I began shopping. I am diligent about distancing so was ready to be patient. Because as much tape as there is on the floor and as many notices as I see around, there are always people who backtrack along the aisles because they forgot the cheese, or people who reach around me to get the ketchup or people returning the cabbage they optimistically put in their trolleys. It’s frustrating but human. And being frustrated at humanity is something you should pace yourself with. I usually just scrub my hands raw when I got home.

But today, as I walked… I experienced none of this. I soon realised people were giving me a wider berth than usual. They passed by me briskly. They nodded apologetically when they needed something in my vicinity. They pointed and asked politely if they could “sorry just get to the tea sorry thanks”.

What fancy hell was this?

Then I felt it. It’s probably how most CEO’s feel. This current of energy from my lower back fizzed up my spine. I felt myself standing a little taller. The energy bloomed at the base of my neck and wrapped around my face. My expression became stern but fair. A downward current had burst down my legs to my wiggly toes. My gait became more even. I squared my shoulders, gripping the trolley and glided through the aisles with purpose. Power.

I stared deeply at those that gave me the wider berth. And nodded. A magnanimous expression, completely unreadable underneath a thick, black mask. A mask that looked so raw, so brutal, so savage that they knew I was capable of anything. I stalked the aisles. I meant business. Heed my seriousness about following government guidelines, or suffer. They couldn’t handle it. The pressure was too great. They faltered. 2 metre radius achieved.

Some braved my power bubble. I felt them hesitate as they saw The Mask. My senses had heightened. They walked, saw, slowed and stopped briefly before accelerating into a bashful trot. They thought themselves bulls yet scurried forward like frightened mice. I stifled the evil laugh that was building.

The final one though. She was brave. She sought eye contact. Her quest for juice was greater than her fear of me. I had already selected my juice. I had slected Sun Quench, Apple and Blackcurrant. She was pursuing the pure apple juice. She attempted to speak to me, cutting through the silence of the store. “Sorry can I just get to the apple juice” she said looking right at me, pointing at the juice and bowing slightly. I looked at her and fixed her with was I hoped was a cool expression, nodded and walked on.

“Thankssomuch”.

In hindsight, I realise she probably hadn’t seen my expression at all.

None of them had.

I got home and took the mask off. I felt the power leave me.

Until next time.

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