a peek inside the fishbowl

22 Nov, 2021

Four tiny words

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life|Multimedia experiments

You can read this post or click here to listen to it on SoundCloud.

I was at the grocery store. I was feeling on edge, in a mood at it were. I had a list of to-dos and frankly I really didn’t want to be there on a Saturday morning. I was in the produce department, debating the merits of buying myself a seven-dollar bag of mini-peppers when I saw a young mother, not wearing a mask. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how much people who aren’t wearing masks stand out. They might as well have a beacon shining out of their foreheads or something.

We live in a time when it’s actually weird to see someone’s entire face.

A wave of annoyance and anger welled up inside of me. And I had questions, lots of questions: Why wasn’t she wearing a mask? Why is she exempt? What is it with people!??

This woman’s son was about five years old. He was cute, doing what kids do, alternately hanging on the cart or running up the aisle. Interestingly, he was wearing a mask.

She and I found ourselves in the same aisle in produce. I debated whether I should say anything. Should I say anything? Or leave it? Ultimately, I could not help myself. I felt the words bursting out of my mouth before I knew it: “You forgot your mask.”

The way I see it, I was stating a fact. I may have sounded judgemental or accusatory, and if so, I didn’t mean to. When I really think back to that moment I felt annoyed and angry, as I mentioned, but also strangely hurt by all of this. I don’t like wearing a mask either, but I do. When I’m wearing it I feel gross and sweaty and I can’t wait to rip it off my face the first chance I get. But I continue to wear it because it’s the right thing to do. I’m doing my part, so why aren’t you, lady?

You forgot your mask.

I actually walked by her as I said it, perhaps subconsciously protecting myself from a potential screaming match with an anti-masker. I don’t know, it’s the coward’s way. As I glided by with my cart, I saw her dive into her purse.

“Oh my goodness, you’re right,” she said. She pulled on the mask. “Thanks for letting me know.”

“No problem. It happened to me last week,” I said. And honestly, it did. I popped into a mall over my lunch break and was so spaced out I didn’t even realize I forgot to put it on until I was a dozen or so steps past the doors.

I overheard the young mother whispering to her son. They were standing next to those seven-dollar peppers I was looking at earlier. “Why didn’t you tell me I wasn’t wearing my mask?” she asked him, but I didn’t hear his reply.

2 Responses to "Four tiny words"

1 | Sally Dowe Marchand

November 23rd, 2021 at 9:27 am


Wow. Well done. I too have done something as absent-minded as walking into a store and taking my mask off. Inside right so remove it. I immediately realized and put it back on.

2 | Mort

November 28th, 2021 at 8:37 pm


I’m usually very good but was gripped with mild panic at the drug store Saturday when I suddenly realized I’d forgotten my mask. Normally there’s a back up stuffed in one of my jacket pockets but not this time! The layout of this store means once you’ve entered, one needs to venture further inside to find the exit door. So feeling rather ashamed I put my hand over my nose and quickly returned to my car to mask up and try again. To your point, I now feel psychologically uncomfortable without a mask on in public, the physically uncomfortable aspect of mask wearing has been secondary.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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