I’m still a bit ruffled …
Right now I’m literally standing in the freezer aisle at the local Woolworths, typing this on my phone.
My two kids, Eli and Esther, are in the shopping trolley beside me, wondering why Dad has stopped pushing them.
But I had to tell you what just happened.
It all started … five minutes ago, here in the freezer aisle.
I’m standing there surveying the ice-cream in the cabinets.
I’m also wearing … a mask.
Probably no big deal to you. I would assume they probably wear masks where you are.
But in Perth, masks are not normal right now. (Remember, we haven’t had COVID here for 150 days, and our state borders are shut.) But the flu I had earlier this week wrecked my voice — and I’m still croaking like a frog. So I decided to wear a mask just in case I got any dirty looks.
Anyway, so I’m bent over looking at the desserts, pondering which sugary treat Hayley might like best.
Then I wonder aloud:
“Crikey, when did ice-cream get so expensive?”
Because just as I say that, a guy walks past.
He’s a short dude, in his late forties, with thinning hair and glasses. He’s wearing shorts and a tee-shirt, and a pair of thongs (er, ‘flip-flops’).
But as I would soon discover, heroes come in all shapes and sizes …
As he hears my crackly voice, the guy stops.
I notice him out of the corner of my eye, but don’t think anything of it. I stand back up, and decide to pass on the ice-cream for today.
I’m about to push my trolley away when I hear a high-pitched, nervous voice:
“You’re wearing a mask, but your kids aren’t?”
Is he talking to … me?
I look around.
Nobody else here. He’s talking to me.
He starts backing away from me. But not without unleashing a nervous — almost incoherent — shaming frenzy:
“I mean … mate. What are you thinking? If you’ve got it, and … your kids, you know … they have … and they’re spreading it … and just … and …”
(He’s spinning his hands around wildly as he gibbers on. He seems overwhelmed with panic and rage at what he’s just seen.)
And of course, he’s still backing away. Five metres now and counting.
“Unbelievable. Just … really. Unbelievable.”
He gives me a disgusted shake of his head.
But before I can open my masked mouth to protest my case, the bloke’s already high-tailed it to the end of the aisle, muttering to himself.
A fine shame-and-run job by the man I am now calling the Unmasked Bandit of Beechboro.
I stand there, stunned.
I am the only human being I have seen in the last seven days wearing a mask in this city. And I’m not even sick for goodness’ sake. The COVID test was negative. I’m only doing this so I don’t freak anyone out. Yet I also get shamed for not wrapping a mask on my young kids?
I’m seriously ticked off.
And in the heat of the moment, I care more than I should, and lose my cool:
“Oh yeah, just say it and run away!” I call out, mockingly.
After all, the dude’s in full retreat mode. And it’s the only thing I can think of saying before he vanishes out of sight.
And then …
And turns around.
And starts coming back.
Uh … crap.
Now he wants to fight me?
I square up toward him and tense.
My eyes flutter side to side, analysing the weapons at my disposal.
If he attacks … should I bash him with the butter?
Clobber him with a Cornetto?
Or maybe a rude Raspberry Ripple tub to the face?
Before I can decide, he’s there in front of me.
(Well, a socially-distanced 1.5m away.)
And suddenly, it’s the Persuasive Page vs. the Unmasked Bandit of Beechboro.
I fire the first shot. “Pretty freakin’ rude to try say that to me while you’re running off, man,” I say, and brace myself for his angry reply.
He opens his mouth and shrieks his answer:
“You’re … right. I apologise!”
“That was wrong of me to just say that and run, so yeah, I’m sorry,” he says. (His voice is still shrill and panicked.) “But … my point still stands!”
He almost goes to offer his hand, then realises that’s against his whole thesis.
So I just nod.
And he scurries away …
… leaving me standing there, slightly unsettled, with my two kids and a trolley full of groceries.
And so ends the legend of the Unmasked Bandit of Beechboro.
Legend has it that to this day, he patrols the aisles of local supermarkets, shaming parents of unmasked toddlers.
He is the hero we deserve …
but not the one we need right now.
Now, here’s the point I’m trying to make with all this:
You never know what other people are going thr—
Heeeeeeh, just kidding. As if I’d write all that copy for some dumb preachy message like that 😂
Just felt like testing out my storytelling chops. And if you’re going to get yelled at by some random for being considerate … might as well get an email out of it!
But for now, I’m going to stick my phone back in my pocket and finish my shopping. I’m happy that I’ve got the bones of the story down (though by the time you read this I’ll have polished it up a bit — it’s not like I cranked this all out, typo-free, on an iPhone in the grocery store).
Ugh. I’m still a little shaken up by that encounter.
Maybe I’ll grab some ice cream after all …