Yesterday I was asked to put my mask on by a stranger on the plane…..
Yesterday on the plane from Athens to Amsterdam, I was waiting for take-off and my nose was sticking out of my mask. I was not deliberately sticking my nose out but sometimes it escapes and when that happens, I find it’s easier to breathe, so I often just leave it hanging out to do its thing. There was a fit, strong, good-looking, tall man about 30 years old, like a young, Dutch Brad Pitt, sitting beside me. He pointed out that my nose was sticking out over my mask and he politely and confidently asked me to put my mask on properly. I politely asked him, “are you worried about my nose? ’ he explained that he was not worried about my nose nor afraid for himself but the rules were that, ‘we must have our mouth and face FULLY covered’ and so I obliged him, closed my eyes and said a prayer for him.
Once the plane took off, I wanted to eat my overpriced but delicious Kettle crisps (sea salt flavour) however, just as soon as I had opened the packet and taken out a crisp, I realised I would not be able to put the crisp in my mouth without seeming like some sort of trouble- maker. I put the crisp down on the table (on top of an unused tissue) and pondered. To eat or not to eat!
I asked myself, ‘what would Greta Thunburg do?’ But I realised this maybe be the wrong question because she would not be happy with all these wasteful, dirty, masks ending up stuffed in turtle shells. So I looked at the child across the aisle who was watching a Disney movie and wondered what she would do. I noted that she had no mask on and I remembered reading that children are even MORE contagious than adults. She also had a snotty nose which she regularly rubbed with her hand, arm and sleave without a care in the world. Maybe she was not the right person to seek help from.
The right question was, ‘What would Jesus do?’ He, of course, would handle this situation with Love. So I closed my eyes for a moment and wondered how I would be able to ask young Duch Brad Pitt permission to eat my crisp without sounding like I am mocking him. Seriously, how do you ask someone who has bravely expressed their concern about your mask, without it sounding as if you are being defensive, attacking or cynical? I stared at the crisp. I examined that crisp more than any crisp I ever examined before. It was strong, but there was a bit missing. It had been recently broken but yet it remained so full. Broken but full. Strong but yet so fragile! It reminded me of myself.
After some time passed, I picked up my courage and turned to young Dutch Brad Pitt, ‘Excuse me, sorry to bother you but I have a question. I opened my packet of crisps and was about to eat a crisp when I realised that I did not know how to eat my crisp without removing my mask. However, I do not want to upset you, so I am wondering what to do next. Can you help me?’ He politely informed me that I was able to eat my crisp if I wanted to. He also added that he did not mind but he pointed out that ‘the airline staff must keep to the rules’. I added, ’thanks but please know if you or a loved one have a condition or if you are genuinely worried, I am happy to put the crisp back in the packed and wait till we land. I mean I like crisps, especially Kettle crisps but I genuinely would not like to cause you or anyone to be upset.” He assured me that he and his kin were well and healthy, he was not upset, and he was happy that I could eat my crisps.
So how do you eat a crisp through a mask? There are 4 main options. 1) Under the mask. 2) Over the mask. 3) Through the side (towards the aisle). 4) Through the side (beside Brad). I went for option 1, which worked nicely. Also, I really enjoyed the crisp. If anything, the seductive waiting and tantric anticipation had added to my enjoyment and appreciation. The second crisp went in from over the top (option 2) but this was less effective because the mask then slipped down under my nose (which may cause unwarranted conversation/advise from a stranger) so I quickly ensured the mask was properly attached and smiled at Brad even though he couldn’t really be sure I was smiling (since I had my mask on). If a man smiles in a forest, but all the trees have been cut down, is there a smile?
Next, I went in from the aisle side but my elbow touch Brad (which is actually the elbow I often keep my mask on) so I tried the other side. I was trying to sneak the crisp through the side of my mask but then the kid took her eyes away from her Disney movie and looked straight at me and then she laughed. She laughed in my face as I struggled to eat my crisp through my mask. She thought I was ridiculous and was mocking me! The snot-nosed little disease-spreading brat! Wait till she finds out about Santa.
All these salty crisps made me thirsty and so I purchased an over-priced bottle of still water (they did not accept cash so I reluctantly used my card). As soon as I had purchased the water, I realised my mask could get soaked if I try and drink it from the side and so I asked the friendly air hostess what to do. ‘Excuse me, I have a question. I am wondering how I shall be able to drink my water with my mask on. What should I do?’ She responded with concern and care in her voice, ’Take it off, of course. You are not a prisoner.’ I felt so liberated. I took the mask off and immediately filled my lungs with air and smiled. I ate another crisp without any maneuvering and washed it down with some water. I was happy.
The child looked over again and saw me smiling. With snot drooling down her little face, I think (I can’t be sure) but I think she looked at me with pride in her eyes and she smiled back at me.
P.s. When we landed Brad took his phone out and took it off airplane mode before ‘it was safe to do so’. I realised that he had broken the rules and for half a second I judged him and then I too in some way felt proud.