I am so tired.
There are many steep staircases both in the building where I work and outside on my campus walks from the parking lot and to the lecture halls. I climb at least a hundred steps every day on my old legs while my wimpy lungs struggle for breath under my KN95 mask. About once a week, early in the morning while the place is still quiet, I hold my breath under my mask and press the button with my elbow and take the elevator for a three-story ride up. If someone gets on with me, I get off silently. I give up. I wheeze up the steps under my mask. This morning I was not silent.
The elevator stopped just one floor up, two to go. The doors opened on a young, unmasked face.
I said, “Do you mind waiting for the next one?”
She said, “Oh, I have a mask in here somewhere,” as she blew breath into the elevator, stepped toward me, and unzipped a bookbag pocket.
I rolled my eyes, shook my head, and said, “OK. I’ll walk,” and pushed past her.
“Fine by me,” she breezed in, still unmasked, and let the old lady walk. She certainly enjoyed the ride up one flight and wore her mask only when someone insisted all day long. Masks probably make her break out, and she likes to show her new lip gloss. Maybe her granddaddy told her not to get vaccinated and her roommate already had COVID last month anyway. Perhaps she had a sore throat yesterday but didn’t get tested because she didn’t want to miss a quiz. She’s probably sick of the whole damn pandemic and thinks adults are just carried away with their stupid worry about the 900,000 dead people and the ever-growing body count.
Not all 20-year-olds behave this way. Most wear their masks indoors as required and would have let the old lady have the ride alone. The rude ones take up all the air in the room and all the energy in the universe. They wear me down and make me sad. Their grandmothers don’t know they behave like this.
They also spread airborne COVID. They don’t care at all. They probably won’t pay the price for their behavior. They won’t even give it a thought until they are old. By then, I’ll be dead so I won’t care either.
I’m not just tired. I’m not just sad. I’m also angry. Their actions effect their peers who miss labs and quizzes and lectures and tests because of being infected by them. Grades slip. Scholarships are lost. Stress increases. Sleep diminishes. Mental health suffers. Future paths change. All because a selfish person defied the rules set to protect others and breathed everywhere.
COVID is a symptom of this pandemic. Humans are the reason it won’t end.
But, hey, only 1.7 million newly sick Americans this week.