So, it’s been a minute since I wrote a column. And during that minute, I’ve been sick with a respiratory virus (not COVID-19). I even ended up in the hospital for a week (seriously, stop looking at me like that, it was not the coronavirus).
I won’t bore you with another hospital story, but whatever you’ve heard, the nurse started it, and the scrubs were mine. I brought them from home.
This is a weird time we’re living in. The other day, after an appointment with my new doctor (one of many), I had to take an Uber ride home. I was wearing a mask, and was being picked up from a clinic. My driver was not wearing a mask. I felt very uncomfortable.
The ride home was long, partly because of the distance, and partly because of the conversation. We (he) talked about masks, and about how, at the time, Uber wasn’t asking drivers to wear them. Then we (he) talked about how maybe the virus was overblown in the news. Then we (he) talked about how his entire family (wife and five kids) had been sick for the months of February and March. Then he said the thing that is still ringing in my ears.
“I’m pretty sure I’m an a-systematic carrier.”
I didn’t know what bothered me most: that I had just gotten out of the hospital and he was telling me he was an asymptomatic coronavirus carrier, or that he said “a-systematic carrier.” I wasn’t sure whether to snarkily ask him why he thought he had no systems, or to jump out of a moving vehicle and tuck and roll onto the asphalt.
Either way, I’m pretty sure the small confines of a car is not the place to tell a stranger that you are an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19. A stranger that you picked up at a health clinic.
Some of you might be wondering why I got in the car with an unmasked stranger in the first place, and I’m here to tell you that you are right. I’m wondering it myself. I can only guess it’s leftover from the “Don’t be rude” policy I grew up with, where one side of my brain is saying, “Hey, this might kill you,” and the other is saying, “There is no way on earth you want this stranger, who thinks the coronavirus is a hoax and who you will probably never see again, to think you’re rude.”
I’ve been practicing being rude. I listen to a true crime podcast where the hosts are constantly telling us listeners to be weird and rude when it comes to safety. Their tagline is “stay sexy and don’t get murdered.”
And now here I was, trapped in a sedan, trying to huddle up against the window so this “a-systematic” carrier wouldn’t breathe vent-air that would then land on me.
By the time he pulled up to my house, I was so ready to get out that I did a tuck and roll on to my driveway. I told friends about the incident. They said I should report it to Uber. So, do you want to know what I did?
I gave him five stars and a tip. I’m so ashamed. I’ve been thinking about it for days, but on Uber there are no take-backs. There’s no button to say, “Nevermind, he was reckless.” There’s also no button to rate myself and ask, “Why did you get in the car in the first place??”
Since then, the sun has come out, the weather’s turned warm, I’ve seen my extended family from a socially appropriate distance, and I’ve even had friends over. And maybe someday soon, I’ll be able to watch TV shows without cringing when the characters are all in the same room without masks.
But for now, I have a new motto. Stay safe, and don’t get infected.
Brodi Ashton is a New York Times best-selling author who lives in the Salt Lake City area. She’s also an occasional columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.