My whole life I’ve made an effort to make sure people around me feel at ease.
At school I was always making sure to befriend the new student. At home I would always try to maintain the peace. I smile at strangers on the bus, assist people who look like they need something and try to make sure people always feel assured.
I’m a real believer in the power of being kind. Reducing other peoples discomfort is a battle I have subconsciously taken on.
But it could have deadly consequences.
I was sitting in my university class today, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. My uni has decided not to shut down and has given very little guidelines thus far regarding social distancing and how to achieve this when seminar attendance is still deemed essential (that’s a rant for another day).
And so – regretfully – I attended class.
There was a girl who arrived with a nasty cough. She was sitting opposite me and telling those around her that she had been to the gym that morning.
Knowing that it has been advised by the government to forgo this pastime, I had my red flags up.
Already nervous that I was in the same classroom as someone who was coughing every one and a half minutes, you can only image my shock when she walked over to the empty seat next to me.
Her laptop had run out of charge and the seat beside me was the only one free that was near the power point.
She asked if she could sit there. I agreed.
The class went on. For 5 hours. And she coughed every minute. That’s around 300 dry coughs (Note: a symptom of Coronavirus). And I sat there and accepted it.
None of those coughs were aimed at the crease of her elbow (as advised by the health authorities). She maintained low effort mouth covering at all times.
And I couldn’t allow myself to move away. I even engaged in discussions with her just so she would feel that I wasn’t being rude.
We had a coffee break and when I returned to class I didn’t move seats – even though that was my opportunity to. I went back to the same seat because I thought it would be too obvious if I moved… Even though I knew the coughing would resume.
I have come home from class and already feel a fever coming on (hypochondriac much?).
Look, she may not have coronavirus. But she definitely had something. And my politeness got in the way and didn’t allow me to put myself first.
I feel angry now. At this girl for attending class with poor health, at the uni for not allowing us to isolate at this time, but mostly at me, for not moving.
Have you experienced this in a public space before? How do you handle it?
How would you have handled this situation?
Are you also Miss Polite? If so, how do we sprinkle in a little more Miss-Healthly-Amount-Of-Kind-And-Smart to ensure we (and those around us) are safe?