Until today, my major concern in relation to Coronavirus was to avoid contact with other people. I did not want to bring the virus home and I did not want to carry it to the people I love and live with.
Before I returned to Canada I spent a week in self-isolation. I didn’t leave my apartment at all. My roommate brought me groceries and news from the outside world. I did not want to risk becoming ill partly because I knew that any symptoms would mean I could not get on a plane back to Canada.
Additionally, I did not want to get sick because I did not want to have to deal with the bureaucracy and expense of the American health care system. So, I stayed apart.
When my roommate, who is very social, went out and about without much change in her normal behaviors, I talked to her about my concerns. I was afraid she might bring the virus home to me. She, very graciously, assured me that she was taking normal precautions like taking off her shoes and washing her hands when coming through the door. In addition, she started changing her clothes when coming home. She also made some changes to her travel plans.
The need for caution stayed with me, and when I went to the airport to catch my flight back to Canada, I wore latex gloves and an N95 mask. I had bought a pack of masks last year when I was cleaning out some mold, and I still had most of them. This seemed like a good opportunity to use the rest of them.
I have been back in Canada for two days now, and haven’t left the house. I have a suite separate from my son and his family and we are keeping away from each other. When they had food to share yesterday, they left it outside my door. I, in turn, shared my leftover masks and gloves and left them outside the same door for them to pick up. That’s how we live now.
Today, I realized I wanted fresh air and I texted my son to see if he and my daughter-in-law were ok with me going for walks. I promised to steer clear of people as much as possible. They said, of course, it was ok. The fear, they said, wasn’t my being in contact with other people. Their fear was contagion from California and/or airports, not from Albertans.
That is when it dawned on me. I have become what I had feared. I may be a carrier of the virus. Far from being the noble, cautious, uncontaminated person I thought myself to be, I realize that is not how I am now perceived.
In Canada, the threat comes from abroad, and in Alberta, it comes from California in particular. What matters in this infected world is not how we perceive ourselves; it matters how others perceive us.