I wear my improvised face mask while I walk a half hour around the block. Nonetheless, I still try to stay at least six feet away from people with or without face coverings. That means sometimes having to steer myself into the street or take another detour to avoid passersby. Many of the people who walk near me pleasantly nod their heads on their way, say hello, or even wave at me.
But my encounter with two unmasked scruffy older men was unnerving. One of them unleashed reverberating rapid-fire volleys of aerosol F-bombs as he lumbered along the sidewalk with an enormous backpack. I scooted as far away from him as I could. The next day, across the street from me, I spied a fellow who looked like a bedraggled Santa Claus. As he walked towards me (I was about to turn the corner), he laughed heartily and then hysterically with as much force as the man who was so fixated on the F-word. Perhaps my vividly colored turtle scarf tremendously amused him, perhaps he was just remembering some rollicking event in his life, or perhaps he was simply loony. Fearing that his booming laughter might penetrate my mask, I rushed away from him.
Ever since the pandemic began, a motley crew of about a dozen men and women has illegally congregated in benches across the street from my condo building. Often, they are rowdy well into the night. Sometimes they just stare into the adjacent canal while munching on food or swigging alcohol. They are obviously not concerned that they might spread COVID-19 to one another. And although they don’t harass anyone who walks or jogs by, they are a menace because there is no more than a foot between them and passersby, spawning a potential cluster of infectious disease.
The police often scatter this disheveled crowd, but it regroups soon afterwards, sometimes with different people milling about, creating a replenished viral petri dish.
On my walks, I am safely on the other side of the road opposite the scofflaws. But I still manage to hold my breath until I go even further away from them. Normally, I embrace the Aloha spirit but not when I see people oblivious to or ignoring precautions to ward off the COVID-19 contagion.
An afterthought on a lighter note: My germ phobic Uncle Sam washed his hands compulsively for years. All of my relatives were aware of his habit, but no one of them followed his hygienic example. Today in the midst of the pandemic, frequent hand washing is de rigueur. Uncle Sam had it right. Uncle Sam wants you!
You have penned another gem. I laughed out loud more than once as I read through your story. My only suggestion, not that you've asked for any, would be that you be especially careful while holding your breath and scurrying away from those bench "scofflaws." Wouldn't want you to pass out from COVID-19 anxiety or oxygen deprivation either.