On March 1st, I went to an appointment with a new doctor. Well, he’s actually a very well-established doctor. But it was my first visit with him. I approached a receptionist who was seated behind an open, sliding window. I had a mask in my hand. I held it up so the receptionist could see it and asked if I was required to wear it. When she told me masks were optional, I put mine in my pocket.

While I was checking in with that receptionist, a woman to my left was checking in at another window with another receptionist. Since the woman talked quite loudly, I could hear her say she was checking her husband in. I looked around the waiting room and saw no one. Assuming her husband must be parking their car, I turned my attention back to my receptionist. When our business was finished, I took a seat and waited to be called to see the doctor.

The entrance to the waiting room was to my right. I heard the door opening, looked that way, and saw an elderly man shuffling in, walker first. Though he was significantly older than the woman who said she was checking her husband in, she turned toward him as he entered. He immediately snapped at her, loudly and angrily, “Have you ever tried to take your jacket off in the bathroom?!”

You only get one chance to make a first impression.

Maneuvering his walker across the room, he sat opposite me, facing me. His wife approached him from his left and handed him a clipboard.

He snapped again: “What do you want?!”

She explained, gently and with more patience than the old bastard deserved, “You have to sign this form.”

He did. She took the form to the window and handed it to the receptionist. Then she took a seat to his right.

When she was seated, he said again, just as loudly, “Have you ever tried to take your jacket off in the bathroom?!”

She said, “No.”

Then he pointed across the waiting room at me and said, just as loudly as he’d said everything else, “What the hell’s the matter with that guy? And why the hell isn’t he wearing a mask?!”

I looked up and smiled.

His wife said, “I don’t know.” Then she got up, walked across the waiting room, picked up a magazine, and took a seat on my side of the room, three or four chairs to my left.

I sat quietly, occasionally glancing at Mr. Sunshine and waiting for him to say something else to or about me. He didn’t.

The Aftermath

Two days after that experience, I saw a post on Substack called, “I’ll Never Forgive the Coronamaniacs”. The entire post is worth reading. Its anger and resentment are completely appropriate and justified. But this jumped out at me:

I’ve seen on-line graduation ceremonies and gowns mailed to students so they could take photos in their backyards, and prom dresses and sports uniforms that were never worn. I’ve heard stories of teens breaking down and crying in their rooms because their youth was being stolen. I’ve seen people unnecessarily unemployed for eight months, desperately seeking work, via computer, ten hours a day, seven days a week. Tens of thousands more people fatally overdosed than in an average year. I was barred from visiting my very ill mother in the hospital. How many families couldn’t gather, either to break bread or to mourn the death of a close relative? Marriages have been postponed; how many children will not have been born because of Corona theater? Overall, how many billions of memories that could have been made, weren’t? Stolen time is irreplaceable.

I’ve seen many of those same things. I’ve seen my grandchildren terrified of wearing masks because they thought it meant they had the virus. I’ve been prevented from seeing my mother in the memory-care unit in which she lived before passing away in January. I’ve known people who postponed marriages. I’ve known people who were denied funerals for their loved ones. I’ve seen families fractured and friendships ended. I’ve seen all manner of panic. And I’ve seen vituperation directed at those who refused to panic.

I don’t know if the bug up the ass of that old son-of-a-bitch in the waiting room was the coronavirus or COVID-related. And I’ll forgive him and forget him with equal alacrity; although, I’ll never figure out why his wife puts up with him.

But I’ll always wonder: who was that masked man?

Originally Published on https://www.bizcatalyst360.com/category/lifecolumns/notes-to-self/

Mark O'Brien Writer, Blogger

I'm the founder and principal of O'Brien Communications Group (obriencg.com) and the co-founder and President of EinSource (einsource.com). I'm a lifelong writer. My wife, Anne, and I have two married sons and four grandchildren. I'm having the time of my life.

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