There is a story I recall being told in school on numerous occasions – each teacher told me that it summed up the Canadian mind-set perfectly.
Apparently, there was a man eating at a fancy restaurant who began choking on his meal.
Rather than asking for help or making a scene that he was in distress, the man politely excused himself and went to the washroom. He died moments later because he was too embarrassed to make a stir and get help.
I can’t confirm that it’s true, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t have happened either.
This story springs to my mind because of some important yet seemingly obvious words premier John Horgan told British Columbians last week.
Simply but sternly, he said in his press conference that “you are not a lesser person if you get COVID-19.”
People are afraid of contracting the virus, but I feel even more-so, people are afraid of admitting they have it; therefore not doing anything about it.
And that fear absolutely fits the Canadian mindset that I have come to know. For the most part, we are peaceful folk who like to unnecessarily apologize for everything.
We care about each other, but I think out society demands a lot from each other; we don’t say this out loud of course, but I do think there is a certain amount of pressure interwoven in our society to be faultless.
To be anything but the weak link in the chain.
I don’t want to get COVID. But I know my fear is not of getting sick or passing along the virus to more susceptible loved ones – it’s of creating an inconvenience.
I don’t want to be “the one” that everyone knows who caught the virus. But what has scared me most through this hurricane of business closures and increasing numbers is the possibility of causing a problem at work.
“What if I bring COVID into the office?” my mind panics. “I’ve been careful, but what if I expose everyone and then everyone’s got to go get tested and the work day comes to a grinding halt and everyone’s angry at me and what if the newspaper is late…”
I have spoken to friends back home in Alberta who are quarantining because they have caught the virus.
When we chat over Zoom, this is not the first thing they tell me – shame in contracting COVID makes them test the waters and measure the “judginess” in my voice before they spill the beans.
I have spoken to relatives who have told me they would dare not tell anyone if they got the virus out of fear of what the neighbours might say.
At the beginning of this pandemic, I recall joking with others that they were going to make us wear something over our sleeves to identify the “COVIDS” from the “non-COVIDs.”
While it hasn’t come to that yet, it seems that there are those who feel that they might as well be wearing a marker. Ultimately, whether you have been diligent and careful – hardly leaving your home since March – or you were out visiting friends when you shouldn’t have been, ultimately, Horgan’s words are the only vaccine for anxiety and guilt.
“You are not a lesser person if you get COVID-19.”
It may seem trivial and obvious to some, but others are much too hard on themselves – especially in difficult times such as this. Don’t be the man who died choking alone in the bathroom because he was too afraid to get help. If you think you may have COVID-19, isolate and get tested.
We’re in this together and the light at the end of the tunnel only appears when we work together as equals – virus or no virus.
Is there more to this story?