Dear Cindy: My partner and I recently visited one of our favorites stores. It is a small boutique with special clothing items, as well as shoes, jewelry and knick knacks. I felt like a kid in a candy shop because it had been a long time since we’d been there. They are practicing good social distancing with plenty of hand sanitizer available, as well as masks if you didn’t have your own. We were enjoying ourselves when a woman walked in, without a mask. The clerk informed her about the necessity of wearing a mask and offered to give her one. She replied, “You can give me one but I’m not going to wear it so save it for someone who will.” A lengthy discussion between the clerk and this woman began. I was so mad! Shouldn’t the clerk have asked her to leave? Should I have said something? — Still Angry
Dear Still Angry: It isn’t clear why some of us refuse to wear masks. My understanding is that if I wear one it’s to protect you from any “droplets” or saliva from my mouth. I wear it as a courtesy to try to not infect you. I have heard that some refuse to wear the mask because they feel rebellious about being “controlled” by the protocol. Others may believe that they are harming only themselves and are free to make their own choices. If we believe that it is important to wear masks, it puts us in the position of figuring out how best to take care of ourselves. I’m not certain if an angry confrontation with this customer would have yielded constructive results. Her reply seemed to be a bit challenging, perhaps even a bit sarcastic. It didn’t sound welcoming. It would have been satisfying if the clerk had asked her to leave, especially since wearing a mask was a store policy. But the clerk might not have wanted to risk losing a potential customer in this financially fragile environment.
I’m thinking that you might have considered leaving the store; you could have told the clerk that you’d be back, and waited for the customer to leave before you went back in and resumed enjoying your shopping excursion. The “time-out” may have also provided you with a brief period during which you cooled down and quieted the racing thoughts in your mind.
Sometimes it feels like a combat zone out there. There are many potential triggers. It has never been so important to pick our battles.
Cindy Davis is a retired, licensed professional counselor. All inquiries are confidential. Questions can be emailed to [email protected]