I’ve got a little problem on my hands, and I’m hoping one of you will be able to help me out with it.
We live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan above 100th Street. Our building feels like a true community. That’s hard to find here in NYC, and we’re lucky to have it. We moved to this apartment in 2013. Since then, we’ve seen a good number of our elderly neighbors pass away (well, not seen, thankfully, but heard about), and many sets of yuppy transplants move in, have their first baby and then leave for the suburbs. Still, there are a few people in the building who have been here the whole time we’ve lived here. After over half a decade together, I consider these people to be somewhere between friends and acquaintances.
But now I have a problem. It seems that some of my (no-longer beloved) neighbors don’t understand the idea of ‘social distancing’ or ‘being respectful of other peoples’ health and comfort during a plague,’ and it’s really starting to piss me off.
Yesterday morning, I woke up at 6:30am to take my dog out before the COVID-19 deniers rocked up to the park in their athleisurewear and dumb visors for their unnecessary physical activity. I wrapped my winter scarf tightly around my head (I’ve learned that having a weak chin is a detriment to my personal safety during this ordeal, because the scarf keeps slipping off my non-existent jaw, but that’s for another post). I put on my latex gloves (which I weirdly was only able to order from a local restaurant called Mel’s Burger Bar, in a sign that the apocalypse has truly arrived). We got into the elevator. And then the doors opened, and all of a sudden I was standing three feet away from one of my neighbors, a woman in her 60s, who was not only sniffling and wearing a surgical mask, but HOLDING A CRUMPLED, USED TISSUE IN HER HAND.
It felt like a moment from Shaun of the Dead; yup, there was a zombie, and I needed to not be in this enclosed elevator with said zombie. I assumed that because she was clearly sick and has a functional brain in her head, she would allow the elevator door to close and let me ride down alone, and then she’d catch the elevator when it came back up. I was WRONG. Instead, she literally came into the elevator, leisurely and calmly, as though it was a normal day and she wasn’t literally exposing me to a germ that could put either of us on a ventilator (which the city won’t have for either of us, if the doomsday predictions on the news come true).
My heart stopped. I didn’t want to even speak, because every time you open your mouth, germs could go in (is that even a thing? It sounds kind of like that old nonsense about eating 7 spiders in your sleep throughout your life, but that’s how I feel these days). Unfortunately, I didn’t have a choice – so I had to muscle past her (NOT 6 FEET APART) while saying “if you’re getting on, then I’m getting off,” in a muffled voice through my scarf. I was so galled I can’t even tell you. Jack and I took the stairs down to the lobby, but due to the fact that he’s incredibly plump these days (my fault, and another source of tremendous guilt for me during this lock-down), we had to take the elevator back up, and now I have to wait 10 days to find out if this bitch got me sick. Terrific. The same thing happened to Ben the other day with another one of our neighbors, and that guy has a BABY! People are idiots!
This begs the question: what do you say to a neighbor you’ll have to see after this whole thing is over (assuming that we don’t all drop dead) to prevent them from getting in the elevator with you that somehow conveys the message “I will not hesitate to punch you in your old face if you get on the elevator right now,” but with respect and dignity? Anyone have any suggestions?