So on Wednesday, I had a cough. I figured if I coughed and merely covered my mouth, or sneezed into my arm anymore, people would start to be afraid of catching my germs. I always feel like people are judging me when I’m carrying the creeping crud, wondering why I am invading their space with my little germ tagalongs.
So I did a very Japanese thing, and chose to wear a mask.
From what I understand, masks are not usually used here to keep the germies out. Instead, they are more often used to keep all those gross things swirling around in the air just against your face, creating a hot, gross, uncomfortable environment for your nose and mouth which can’t breathe in the first place, thanks to being hosts to all that snot you’re carrying. Right. But I am into new experiences, so I wore a mask to school.
The first thing I discovered was that the airflow was channeled directly up to my eyes. Which is uncomfortable, sure, and while that was a theme I had yet to discover in being masked, it was also problematic in that I wear glasses, and warm/moist air applied to glasses only results in them being fogged.
On the bus, this was no problem. I removed the glasses and shut my eyes and it was fine. I knew I had a different shaped mask in my desk, anyway (they have been handing them out since August and probably before).
The different mask was much easier to keep from fogging my glasses, but the effect of the mask on the perceptions of my co-workers, especially the principal and VP, was phenomenal. I guess they aren’t used to foreigners wearing masks? Or something. They freaked out. They were grilling me in seconds. Do you have a fever? Is it influenza? Are you going to the doctor after school? You have lessons today, but I think you should go directly once they are finished. Here is the name of a clinic near your house.
I really appreciated the concern, but the attention was overwhelming. I had done it to be less visible. Total backfire. And, the mask was really stupid insofar as I had to keep taking it off to blow my nose, and I wasn’t even really coughing or sneezing that much.. that comes in the later stages of having a cold. In class, the kids didn’t seem to care as much. I theorize that they are not surprised when I manage chopsticks/eat fish heads n’ all/wear a mask because they assume people just do these things… they have not yet been persuaded that ‘ferners’ are SOO different and cannot/do not.
Or maybe, and I get insecure about this sometimes, those JETs who came before me just left a legacy of awesomeness that my own personal attempts fill just so.