It’s a cold, crisp morning as I make my way to Aldi to buy some more yellow food and a pack of bananas. The pavements aren’t busy, so I’m able to enjoy the oral freedom of a no-masking fresh air bonanza, sneezing at will and spitting on the floor like there’s no tomorrow.
I cross the car park and reach into my pocket for my brightly coloured facemask. I enter the store and fail to acquire a wheelie basket, but I don’t mind. It’s been a relaxing walk down, a nice morning to set me up for the rest of the week, and I’ve meticulously constructed an aisle-by-aisle shopping list that maximises efficiency and minimises social encounters.
As I peruse the bread section, I feel the faint tingling of a sneeze in my nose. I chuckle beneath my mask, “you’re going to have to do more than that to make this guy sneeze”.
I venture forth unto the vegetable aisle and ask a member of staff if they have any fennel, “we don’t” comes the response. “It’s a bulbous root vegetable” I retort. “Ok, we don’t have it” comes the curt reply. No matter, I plough on.
I find myself by the cheese section, debating whether to break protocol and add an alien block of Red Leicester to my basket. Alas, I’m not brave enough to question the list and my sense of duty urges me to move on.
But then, it happens, opposite the stock cubes…the tingly sneeze returns. Before I have time to pull my mask down and form a protective dab over my mouth, I released a globule of snot into my ethically sourced hand knitted facemask that would make the troll from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets weep salty salty troll tears.
What is this feeling? Why do I feel so ashamed? Why do I feel like everyone is looking at me?
As I pack my shopping wearing my snot dampened mask, I know that my brain has gone into auto-pilot, my trusted facemask has tricked me into thinking that I’ve shat myself, right there in the middle of Aldi. The same feeling of guilt and embarrassment is there, the same feeling of bodily fluid on skin and the same feeling of helplessness. An opinion piece? Perhaps not – but what is opinion when faced with the cold hard fact of reality?