Friday, April 17, 2020 11:09 am
By Funmi Peter-Omale/London
Yesterday morning, I needed to run a couple of errands and needed to stop at the bank first. Because of the recent regulations and protocols to curb the spread of coronavirus, I have honestly avoided going to enclosed spaces like banks, getting on the buses and trains.
Before now, I have always sat or stood close to entrances and exits, in public places and on public transport. Ask my children, they’d tell how I’d lecture and begged them never to sit at the far back or in the middle of people, when travelling on public transport! I grew up like that, being worried about getting stuck.
It’s laughable now, that I understand and able to manage it as a phobia. But when. I was growing up and until few years ago, I’d miss appointments, miss rides, stood in rains or under the sun; just because I didn’t want to sit at the back or be sandwiched between two passengers! I loathed travelling by public transport!
The same thing for going to church, attending parties, or any crowdy confined spaces, I’d always wanted to stand or sit where I can seen the door. I always felt I’d need to escape! What? I don’t know. So my children, bless them, stopped telling me when they need to travel – maybe they’d text me on their way or when they reached their destinations.
Sorry for digressing. I wanted you to understand where I’m coming from, before you follow me through what happened yesterday!
At Nationwide Bank yesterday, I joined the queue outside the bank (all the banks and shops only allow three to four people at a time because of coronavirus); patiently waiting for my turn under the warm sun, as a cold breeze is blowing the heat of the sun. Was I happy I was wearing a light bomber on too of my free flowing animal print dress! I mean I saw loads of people wearing short sleeve tops and dresses “warming” themselves in the sun. They were grossly under dressed in playsuit and shorts and all. (Oyinbo people can’t help it when the sun comes out, so some often underestimate the temperature because of the bright sun).
Of course I had my Bluetooth headphones on, which I do when I really don’t want to converse or do small talks with anyone – total stranger will walk up to you and start talking about how nice the weather is and all that. I don’t really like such small talks, especially now with Covid-19 being transmissible through spit and droplets.
There was this couple in front of me chatting away, no mask no scarf and it was windy. So I took my scarf out of my bag, wound it around my mouth and nostrils, and turned backing the wind (sideways to them).
As the queue inch closer to the entrance of the bank where a staff calls customers in, I saw from the corner of my eye pointing at me and conversing with a man on a disability scooter. Because I was wearing my sunglasses, they thought I couldn’t see them. I totally switched on my snobbish mode and pretented I didn’t know what was happening. I knew but I was just not ready to risk my health and start chatting about who is next on queue or whatever.
Then the lady in front of me came a bit closer and pointed at my headphones and pointed at the man on the scooter, who should have joined the queue behind me in the first place!
Finally, I pulled back my headset and she said, “oh the man was asking me if I was on the queue to go into the bank?” I was like “no I’m just standing here to dance for the people going into the bank!”
You should have seen the look on her and her partner faces! I said to them, ” I have been standing behind you all this time, as the queue was moving we were all moving forward. Then you’re asking me if I was on the queue”. She started explaining the man was asking, blah blah and I had my headphones on… I retorted I had it on for a purpose.
“Because Covid-19 can be passed by droplets and spits through talking to strangers in public and I didnt want to talk”. They were all staring at me.
The scooter man still didn’t join the queue, he stayed under the sun “warming” himself while I was called in after the couple. He was still out there, while I briskly finished my business in the bank and left.
There’s no mean streak in me, but I’d not put anyone, least of all myself at risk, and I have respectfully adhered strictly to procedures as laid down wherever I go. In fact a couple of times, in recent times, I have had to tell covidiots to move away from where I was sat, to keep the two-metre-apart rule.
When I go shopping or for the daily walks, I see people making and answering calls in public; wearing dirty masks; wearing same filthy gloves to shop, holding their shopping bags and then getting on public transports home. In between touching their phones and touching surfaces and all (maybe because of OCD I notice and worry about these things).
Gloves (latex) are supposed to be single used, but some people wear them all day, take them off at home and wear them the next day on and on! Some are so filthy, you wanna puke!
-Funmi Peter-Omale, journalist, writes from London