Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 30 May 2020

An open letter to the man I saw throwing his disposable glove on the ground

Who, may I ask, do you expect to pick that up?

A discarded plastic glove, this one pictured in London on the morning on March 24, 2020. AFP
A discarded plastic glove, this one pictured in London on the morning on March 24, 2020. AFP

This weekend, my only outing was to Waitrose.

That sounds like the start of a bad Instagram poem, but it's real life.

If you'd told me two months ago that this would be my one trip out of my apartment, I wouldn't have believed you. But staying at home is where we're at, and we all know it's the right thing to do.

My senses, dulled from a week of seeing nought but my flat, were overloaded by the fluoro-lit sights of the supermarket.

Just to paint a picture for you, he was wearing wraparound Oakleys, had tribal tattoos that he clearly had no familial connection to and was flicking his cigarette ash out of the window too

I maniacally nodded at people, cracking a smize to try to make friendliness clear from a face-covered distance. How do you keep at two metres length within the tight confines of an aisle? You don't really, which is why I found myself reversing out of these tight shopping tunnels before I could swipe at starches, settling for whatever I could get in a quiet corner.

Some fellow shoppers were annoying: there was the person who moved all of the peanut butters aside so that he could get the one in the back.

You wanted your jar untouched, but then pawed the rest in the process? Top move.

But, despite that dark spot, the communal effort being made to keep everyone safe was buoying. The shoppers were mostly respectful and polite, moving their trolleys around as if they were reverse magnets, the opposite of bumper cars.

And the team behind the counters and those packing the shelves, who I’ve gotten to know over the years, were still so friendly, despite the fact that their workplace has been transformed overnight. They have to wear masks from day to night and be around people all day in a world in which we’re told not to, so that I can continue to eat the foods I love. I will never forget that.

But then my faith in humanity took a serious turn as I walked into the carpark and a man drove past in his Mustang, flung his arm out of the car window, and ripped off his blue plastic glove, throwing it onto the road.

Just to paint a picture for you, he was wearing wraparound Oakleys, had tribal tattoos that he clearly had no familial connection to and was flicking his cigarette ash out of the window. My guess is he's the type who likes to @ female journalists who show opinions online, and has a penchant for cutting people off and then road raging at them as if they're the one in the wrong.

I'm extrapolating and projecting, I know.

Really? I exclaimed after he tossed his floppy glove on the ground, my face mask concealing my incredulity. Although, even if my outrage had been visible, I doubt he would have noticed: it's unlikely his EQ is off the charts.

But, if by a small sliver of chance, he reads this, I want him to consider this: what did you think was going to happen to your glove?

You wore the glove as a prophylactic for yourself, but then threw it out into the world for someone else to pick up?

Sure, that person will likely be wearing gloves themselves, but they're out cleaning the streets you're driving down in a strange and changing world. Life's tough for many people right now, and the last thing they likely need in their day is to find your dirty old blue plastic glove.

The environment hardly needs that down a drain either.

I understand that my reaction, and the fact I'm still thinking about that act four days later, is irrational. But then we're all a bit irrational these days.

We've lost jobs, money, lives and freedom (temporarily): no number of streaming yoga classes can make me feel better about these things.

Yesterday, I broke a glass pepper grinder by plonking it down on my kitchen counter too hard in a strange moment of frustration. Why was I angry? Because of a cluttered kitchen cupboard.

And yes, I know it's not about the cupboard.

I then had to clean peppercorns and broken glass off the floor and counters, later laughing with my husband about my pepper-temper-tantrum.

But you know what the difference between me and Mr Glove is? I had the decency to mess up my own house. I didn't flick my frustration onto the street and make it somebody else's problem.

I was the one who had to get on all fours and find shards of glass in the corners of my kitchen. And the clean-up turned into a humbling reminder to stop taking myself so seriously.

Updated: April 8, 2020 08:53 AM

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