It's a Thursday night and i'm fulfilling my contractual obligations by being at work. I've been drinking water all day to try and build up my immune system for the next onslaught of government produced super-viruses and i'm craving something that isn't water. My local newsagency has closed it's doors and the only alternative is Gelare across the road. I never go to Gelare, there's always this middle-aged italian guy perched out the front between 3-5pm on weekdays wearing shades and little else. Then, when the schoolgirls start piling out, he changes his seating position to a semi-relaxed slouch with his legs more open than what is considered socially acceptable. I call it the "how bout it?" slouch. It's obscene and the schoolgirls know better than to approach Gelare between 3-5pm on weekdays.
Anyway, he's not there after 7pm so it was moderately safe, or so i thought. I walk in there and some old lady is standing behind the counter not contributing to the workplace. I lean over the register to get her attention and she reluctantly asks what i want. I ask for a can of lemonade and clearly point it out in the fridge, just in case she thinks lemonade is some kind of charity concert for less fortunate lemons. She surprisingly acknowledges my request and heads towards the fridge.
Cue cough number one.
It wasn't anything life-threatening, but it let me know that her personal hygiene is the last on her list of things to take care of. It wasn't even the first cough that caught my attention. It was the lack of courtesy wipe afterward. No wipe, not even a pretend one.
This woman showed no remorse for my health or at least the protocol of the World Health Organization and I was so offended that i almost didn't notice her removing the bottle from the fridge with the same hand.
I was a little more alert now, keeping in mind that i'd have to wash the lid, my hands and my entire workspace when i got back to the shop. I watched her like a hawk as she fumbled around with the till and i began to wonder if incompetence is a mandatory trait required for employment in the half price waffle business.
Then, the second cough.
This made the first cough seem like normal human breathing. The sheer force of the second cough shook the entire building, several nearby establishments lost power and it became clear to me that this time she wasn't fucking around. It was a triple shot with hints of mucous, traces of after-steam and a total of zero apologies.
She offended senses that i didn't even know i had. She set our entire health care system back 100 years. She didn't want me alive anymore.
I thought back to my hazardous materials training in high school and realized that i didn't actually have any, so the panic really started to set in when she combined the second cough, with a lack of courtesy wipe and the exchange of moneys between her polluted hands and my virgin digits.
It was the most despicable act of ignorance i had witnessed in a few weeks and it hit really close to home. I'm normally able to watch this type of horror from the comfort of my own home via television set but the truth is, it could happen to anyone. Ignorance is everywhere and unfortunately, there are still some people out there who were taking a day off when the human decency manuscripts were being distributed.
All i can say is, be careful. I took the bottle and my change and carried it out like it was a sample of pure herpes, with the very tips of my least important fingers. I washed the lid of the bottle until it's ribbed surface area resembled that of an 8 ball, but i couldn't bring myself to drink from it. It may be $3 and my evening cigarrette down the drain, but at least i lived to bring this to your attention.
As for the change? I can only hope my $7 tip doesn't fall into the wrong hands.
Episode 2: Sporotrichosis at Subway.