Unmasked

(Continued from Tuesday’s blog)

“If an ordinary person is silent, it may be a tactical manoeuvre. If a writer is silent, he is lying.”

- Jaroslav Seifert

I stopped by the pharmacy on my way home from the Assessment Clinic, feeling a few inches taller for being declared no longer contagious by the fourteen-year-old doctor. She’d recommended lozenges for my lingering cough, a common aftereffect of the flu.

It was nice to be out and about after my week-long quarantine. Only once out of sheer necessity had I broken quarantine and made a stealth trip to the supermarket. I was desperate for juice and chicken soup ingredients, so I sterilised my hands and held my breath and did not cough once, not even in the face of the week’s sale meat – a display devoted entirely to… pork. Yes, I stood there shivering and trying not to cough, and being mocked by packaged swine.

So there I was at the pharmacy, guilt-free and without worry of infecting anyone. Lozenges were on sale, no surprise, so I grabbed a few bags and took my place behind the one customer who was at the one open cash.

I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

It seemed there was a points-redemption crisis under way, which involved a telephone call, a store manager with a key, and about twenty-five pages of paperwork to be filled out in triplicate, something to do with an electric toothbush. A lineup formed behind me. A tickle formed in the back of my throat. I looked nervously at the bags of lozenges in my hand, and held my breath.

Waiting is never good when there’s a tickle in one’s throat.

I raised my elbow and rammed my face into it. Then three things happened at once:

1. I coughed.

2. Instantly there appeared  – from trapdoors in the floor? – three other cashiers.

3. Everyone behind me scattered.

Then a fourth thing happened. The points crisis was magically solved, and the customer fled, stuffing her twenty-five pages of paperwork and her new electric toothbrush into her purse. The cashier looked at me with alarm, her eyes pleading as she slowly shook her head and took a few steps back.

When finally I could, I croaked at her, “A fourteen-year-old doctor just told me I’m no longer contagious.”

I popped a lozenge in my mouth and wished her a good day. When I looked back inside the pharmacy, the cashier was slumped against the wall, her face a picture of relief.

So I went home and poured myself a nice cup of mint tea.

 

Categories: General.