I have been having a heck of a time getting my thoughts down coherently. I get started, and then before I know it, I’m halfway to writing a book. Im so keen to share my knowledge and experiences that it all pours out at once, in a big jumble. I’m not writing a historical memoir, or a textbook. I’m chatting with new people, so I thought I’d start with a conversation. I’m going to pretend that I have met someone on the street, and respond to their questions. I hope it will remind me to stay on topic, and provide digestible chunks.
The first thing anybody who meets me wants to know is why I wear a mask. Kinda easy to see why….
Those of us who need masks have all had some interesting encounters, and think of what we ‘wish’ we could say if someone makes an insensitive comment. My friend Sean Michael wrote a lovely piece for the Mighty about exactly this topic. You can read it here.
I’ve only actually called someone on it once, someone caught me at a bad moment… We were getting into an elevator. I got on first, and a man entered behind me; so he hadn’t seen my mask. He turned to look at me, and leaps to try to get out of the elevator- the door had closed though. He recoiled as far away from me as he possibly could, giving me angry, dirty looks.
It could be that this fellow had some awful trauma as a child, and was frightened of masks….highly unlikely… I tried to catch his eye. I was very tempted to shout ‘Boo!’, but that wouldn’t really have been the wisest thing to do. Finally, I said “it’s okay, I don’t bite.” He glanced over, twenty year old bravado and arrogance dripping off his words “Sick people just shouldn’t go out.” Seriously, dude? I almost always say the rest in my head, but it came out of my mouth that time. “I am going to the Health Unit in this building. The mask is to protect me from you. I’d be perfectly fine if you didn’t dip yourself in cheap ass Axe cologne!” (My skin was reacting he was wearing so much of the stuff. Horrendous…).
Sputter, sputter…. “I uh…well…” As he gets off on a different floor, he mutters “It’s not Axe cologne, anyhow.” I managed to actually pull out the perfect response “Yeah, and that matters… it could kill me just as fast.” I am usually a very polite Canadian, apologizing for everything… Perhaps that’s why he was so startled- middle aged Canadian woman are bred to put everyone else’s needs above their own. I’m working on kicking that habit.
Since then, my interactions with strangers when I have my mask on has completely shifted. Its the perfect example of how the littlest thing can have a huge effect. I sewed pretty beads onto it. Instantaneously I was getting kind, curious questions rather than stares. It makes a huge difference! It opens the door to my being able to broaden people’s minds rather than eliciting fear. And little children love it- anybody who is familiar with tots knows that they are usually frightened by someone whose face is different. Add a little bling, and poof! The pointing turns from “Daddy, what is wrong with that lady?” to “Daddy, I want a pretty mask, too!” Sorry daddy…you can’t buy them.
The mask is definitely for me, not for whomever else is there. Most masks are to filter out germs like bacteria and viruses, or to combat pollution. In Asia pollution masks are becoming ever more necessary, and we are all pretty familiar with the ones that filter out germs. My mask filters out allergens such as pollen and dust, and there are many masks that can do that- putting a bit of cotton over your mouth is almost sufficient. The key is that I also have to have a mask that filters out fragrances and smoke. Their particles are significantly smaller than most other chemicals, and they are notoriously hard to filter out.
There is only one option that works, the Respro allergy mask with the upgraded filter and valves. I know that other folks find other products that they prefer (such as the 3M respirators). I’m going to write up some mask comparisons, but that will have to wait for another day. I’m having great fun decorating them. I have a few in progress, this is one if the first decorations I did last fall.
We had one of the snowiest winters on record. How perfect!
Next Turn in the conversation “Your allergies are that bad!?”