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Tears would feel nice
Yesterday and today, here in Brooklyn, from unhealthy to hazard.
Yesterday, I went out in my P100 respirator and set up mask distribution outside the carwash, up from the busy bus stop.
On the sidewalk, there’s a metal electrical or phone wiring case that was just the right height and width to hold the two big boxes from Chewy that had held bedding for my corn snake’s tank.
One box held regular KN95s, the other the small size for children and very small adults. I printed out signs in English and Spanish, with yellow highlights on the FREE/GRATIS part.
Each bag held 10 masks. I taped up a mask on the upwards-facing back flap of each box, open to show multiple masks. And I held masks and open bags in my hands, offering masks to people who walked by me, or by whom I walked when I went up and down the street.
I brought them up to some of the men working outside at the car wash. Many took one, and a few seemed excited to have the full bags, including ones for the kids.
Most people thought I was selling them, and by the time they realized I wasn’t, they’d half walked by me and would turn around as the expressions changed on their faces. A lot were wearing surgical masks, some nothing.
Why did it feel hard when they gave me such sincere thanks, when they gave me their blessings?
I gave away a lot of full bags of the regular size. I asked adults if they had kids at home and gave the small bags too. A few people asked from their cars when they stopped for the light.
I dropped a bag off to the woman in the backyard garage converted to a COVID testing site behind the Islamic community center. It’s been great, been going there almost weekly for months since the city shut down the outdoor site a mile away — but I don’t go there any more for testing. They bill through an urgent care. So now that the federal funding is over, I’d have a $50-70 co-pay and fees to get a PCR test. The closest of the few remaining places the city has for free testing is about a 30 minute drive away, inside. So I don’t go there either.
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The signs on the boxes thanked delivery workers. I’d taken the text from one I saw posted on the Signal chat of one of the COVID prevention activist group I’m a part of. I think the group is mostly disabled and sick people, trying to organize to get people masks, protesting to get masks back into healthcare settings, and the like.
But I couldn’t see a way to offer masks to the many delivery workers who were passing by at various speeds on mopeds, motorized bikes and motorcycles. A few were already masked. More than a few didn’t have helmets.
After 30 min or so, I left the boxes and headed back, pulling my empty cart while juggling a few bags in case I gave some out on the way home. I passed the other bus stop around the corner where a very small woman, older than me and clad in a thickly woven black dress, had pulled up the dress up to cover her mouth and nose. I gave her a mask.
As she put it on, her eyes looked as if she was seeking instructions. I motioned to pinch the metal frame at the top across the bridge of the nose. Her eyes flashed recognition and I gave her a thumbs up as she fitted it to her face.
Later I wondered if I should have given her the small size, and regretted not giving her a full bag. I struggled to juggle the bags on the walk home, dropping them several times, and finally dumped them in the cart, where they slid out less frequently than they did in my arms.
When I went back a few hours later, I put a few bags of each size in a small backpack, looped it around the handle of the cart. I’d learned that lesson. I gave out a few more masks while walking.
The box that had held the regular masks was empty, face down in the street in the bus lane. The box of small masks was about half empty from when I’d left it. There were a lot of loose masks in the box, evidence that people had opened up the packages to take some.
I packed up the boxes into the cart and waved to a few people working at the car wash who were watching. I wheeled them back to my apartment building, 3 blocks away.
For some reason, I felt sheepish, self consciously watching myself as that do-gooder who takes pains to recycle cardboard while the world burns. It wasn’t that; I just didn’t want to leave the boxes in the street and I know that people in the houses may feel some kind of way about other people’s stuff in their trash.
I came home and we hunkered down. There’s smoke smells in here too, even though we have a bunch of HEPA filters on, and the rooms we shut off that don’t have filters in them smell worse. The windows are old and don’t seal well. They lied when we moved in, saying they were new replacement windows, but we knew they weren’t — and we were going to move in anyway, of course.
Today my kid has a migraine headache and my eyes are more sore by the minute, even though the levels are down - down meaning to the “unhealthy” range, not the “hazardous” range. But is not unhealthy a hazard?
My eyes are messed up today. They are usually somewhat teary every morning, thanks to my chronic conditions, but today they have alternated between teary and a different parched and stinging kind of feeling.
Now it’s late afternoon, and they feel strained, too big for their sockets.
Tears would feel nice.
Thanks to Bona Fide for the mask donations to Strategies for High Impact / Long COVID Justice. Here’s the info we have on getting mask donations:
Bona Fide: “Any non-profit organizations looking to receive these donations can contact the company directly at : email@example.com."
Project N95: Has free masks for families (https://www.projectn95.org/free-masks/) and also for community orgs (https://www.projectn95.org/free-masks/community-organizations/)