Thursday, April 14, 2011


I was going up and down the aisles of the hardware store, knowing what I needed but not finding it. My desire was to paint some outside furniture and I was looking for exterior, bright red gloss. Evidently I wasn't even close. It seemed each shelf only had interior paint.

Being female in a hardware store is sometimes intimidating. Now I am not a delicate flower, use to being pampered by a super handy male but neither am I fluent in hardware speak while sporting a two hammer holster. I'd say I am about a C minus student when It comes to home improvements.

Finally a nice male clerk about my age noticing my bewilderment, approached with the magic words. “Do you need some help?”

I told him of my quest and off he went. I followed him like a faithful puppy down the several aisles till we came upon the exact thing I was looking for. 'Ah, today will be productive after all,' I thought.

I asked him to “shake it up” for me ( Sadly I  was referring to the can of paint ) so we went to the paint shaker and indulged in small talk while the can vibrated. Then it happened. Bless his heart, he started emptying his lungs all over me with a series of violent , starting from the toes, head busting coughs.

The coughing finally eased and he raised his head to look at me with watery eyes. I am sure my own eyes were enlarged beyond the rims of my glasses with  lots of white showing. The desire to display concern for the fellow was fighting fiercely with the desire to flee the building. It had to be written all over my face. I'm a poopy actress.

One thing I learned about the Japanese during their recent ordeal is that if they are feeling ill, they wear a mask in public to protect everyone else. I found this to be amazingly courteous and kind of wish it were a practice here. We are just now learning to sneeze into our elbows. We have a long way to go.

Before you judge me harshly as being overly cautious, remember, I am my own caregiver. I fix the soup, provide cold cloths for my fevered brow, aspirin for pain and hold my own head while I study the bottom of the toilet bowl.  Since I am a cranky patient and a reluctant caregiver, it is in my best interest to remain healthy.

I am not a serious germaphobe but I am careful to avoid the wheezing, sneezing,coughing, blowing types in public. As this poor fellow hacked away, I was very much aware that my immune system was probably collapsing with each breath I drew in. I really tried to avoid breathing and just took tiny sips of air.

“Oh my,” he moaned, “This raw throat and cough are just killing me.” Seeing my eyes get even wider, he quickly added, “Good thing I don't have a fever or I'd have had to stay home.”

I suppose that was meant to assure me that he was not contagious. I desperately wanted to feel his forehead to make sure he still did not have a fever. Maybe he was fever-less this morning, but what about now?

“Perhaps you ought to go to the doctor.” I weakly suggested, still sipping my air while looking in the opposite direction as if searching for something.

“Oh, I will,” he promised, “if I am not better by tomorrow. It has only been a couple of days and I am pretty sure it is allergies.”

Being someone who will go to great lengths not to hurt or offend anyone, I followed him to the front of the store and allowed him to check me out while trying not to treat him like a leper. He then hacked all over my receipt and suggested I have a good day.

In the car I bathed in hand sanitizer and took an overdose of Echinacea when I got home. I do have faith in those pills.  I am pretty sure I dodged the bullet for I am still well and it has been 4 days now. Phew.

Now the question I have for you is, would you have continued to let that man wait on you or would you have bolted for the door at the first hack with some sort of excuse shouted over your shoulder??  


  1. Oh my goodness....sorry but I have laughed out loud. It shouldn't be that funny because I haven't been feeling well since yesterday, experiencing a headache and now, this morning, achy body. I still plan on going to work. I am not sneezing or coughing, and NO FEVER so far...hahahahaha

    I love your writing. It's so detailed and vivid. My favorite line: "I am sure my own eyes were enlarged beyond the rims of my glasses with lots of white showing." LOL

    I think I'd have done the same you did. Just trying to be polite, and then sanitize my hands when back to the car. I carry sanitizer with me all the time.

    Poor guy, he probably can't afford to miss work. Neither do I! LOL


  2. Hi Patti, I'd stick around if it was something I really needed. But, I'd stand as far away as good manners would allow and try not to breathe! :D I've been known to turn around and take a detour when confronted with a obviously sick and coughing person in an aisle in the store. Glad you didn't catch anything!

  3. I'd have done the same thing as you did, trying to hold my breath but wishing I could run the other way. I've often wondered what happened to the "cover your mouth when you cough" rule. Glad you didn't catch whatever he had.

  4. I would have mostly likely played it out just like you, Patti. Allergy time is here...I sneezed 5 times in a row last night, but am otherwise fine!

    When out and about, it's good to carry a saline solution nose spray to use immediately and keep a hand sanitizer in the car though! :)

  5. I'm a victim of my own beliefs...nice matters. So I would have stayed. And used lots of hand sanitizer the minute I could! There's a good chance it really was allergies since the pollen is perfectly horrible right now....blessings, marlene

  6. I would probably have bolted. Not that I know for sure. If I am sitting in front of someone on the bus who starts coughing, I get up and move. I am SURE I would have backed off at the very least. Yikes!

  7. Hold my hand,
    Thanks. I am so glad you laughed Doris. That is what I was going for. I spend a lot of my life laughing at my self.
    Sanitizer really is a great invention isn't it?

    Me too on skipping aisles when I hear hacking in the next one. Thanks, I thought I was alone.

    He did more or less cover his mouth but lots escaped. Besides, he then used that same hand to handle my purchase. Sigh.

    Good advice. I do have that saline solution nose spray. Just never thought to carry it.

    Think you and that fellow are right. My car turns green each day with pollen.

    That is my first instinct, I just rarely act on it. Luckily, I also rarely get sick. Maybe it is in the air sipping:))

  8. I would have stuck around. It's pollen season and lots of folks get hit with sudden sneezing and hackin'. They can't help it. They're not contagious. I feel sorry for them. Heck, it happens to all of us at one point or another. Why, just the other day Cindy and I were in a restaurant and I suddenly burped out loud. I have never done that before, but God decided it was time. I was shocked but I had to laugh about it.

    Hey, the main thing is --- you got your paint.

  9. That story is hilarious! I love your writing!
    I would have done the exact same thing you did. I probably would have suggested to the manager that this employee go home.
    I know that some folks can't stay home when they're sick, but (even though they do tend to scare small children) I completely agree with wearing the masks!
    Thank you for stopping by my blog!

  10. I would have stuck it out, as you did, wondering, as you did. Chances are everything he touched got his germs on that day, so even if you rushed out right away, you were already screwed.

    Allergies my foot!
    However, think of this experience as a booster shot. If you never expose yourself to germs, how can you develop immunity?

  11. I have an easy out. I try to be extremely careful about picking up other people's bugs and bringing them home to Bob. I would have explained my situation and bolted.

    I think people are rude and focused only on themselves that go to work in that condition.

  12. Honestly dunno what I would've done. Its rather a sticky situation.. I guess I would've stayed back but would've ensured I conveyed my displeasure. Yieeks. I'm not so good at making a quick decision :D

  13. This was such an excellently written post about something we've all had experience with. I would have been stuck like you since he had your can of paint. I'd have done exactly what you did.

    By the way, I thought the Japanese were wearing masks out of courtesy to other people, but a Tokyo friend of mine said it's also more likely that they are trying to avoid catching somebody else's germs.

  14. You are my long, lost soul sister! I would have done the same things - I'm a nice, polite, midwestern girl. A germaphobe much too polite to turn and run!

    But, please people, stay home if you're sick!

  15. Well, that is a tough one. Being a Mom and a preschool teacher and a woman over 50 who speaks her own mind more and more each day, I hope I would have said, hey, don't cough on me, cough into your elbow like this. And, it could be the swine flu, not allergies mister.

    Still, it is very likely that I would have done just the very same things you did. I always am coming up with what I should have said later, after I am home.

    On top of how you self-treated, I firmly believe in the drug store brand of 24-hour antihistime at the first sign of anything other than the stomach flu.

    Also, ACE Hardware in our town drives me crazy...but sometimes I have to go there. Ten years ago, when I first moved here, there was no Bi-Mart. ACE was the only show in town and they were so stuck up, acting like they had the best jobs in town. Even getting a fishing license was like walking through hell.

    When we were getting married, I wanted a bunch of little white Christmas lights, and since it was June, nobody had them. Except ACE Hardware, and they said, no, they were not going up into the attic to get them for me. I told Cary, he called them up and said, I spend thousands of dollars a year with you guys through the company, and my wife to be wants those Christmas lights!

    They got them for me then, and I thought that becoming a Matthews would come in handy. :>)

    Dang, I am so full of stories that I can't write on my blog.

    Take care, Patti ... I loved your story as usual!

    Kathy M.

  16. I would have also been rooted to the spot by my manners but thinking of washing up or sanitizing at the moment of escape. I recently kept my sick little grandson for 4 days and somehow managed to stay well - echinacea and vit C are my proven formula - also lots of water and green tea.

  17. I would have said "OH that's a bummer, I have allergies too", and sneezed it all right back on him!
    I do have allergies on occassion, but I always sneeze into my elbow.

  18. Hard to say whether the guy was being thoughtless or just distracted.

    My first reaction was to say I carry a mask in my purse, so when people start in I can put it on. I wonder whether that would work?

  19. While wanting to run, I would have stuck it out and fired up lots of garlic once home. I am a firm believer that garlic too can ward off germs if you take them at the beginning of an illness (in my teens I babysat a lot and developed my garlic idea then).

  20. I completely relate to both of you! (I was just in the midst of writing a hate letter to SPRING! HAHA!) I would not want to be blasted by his cough/sneeze rays, but I am also totally suffering with allergies this season, so I know how he feels. It seems to be the worst ever for me. Hopefully he will find some relief (and that it IS allergies and nothing else!) and you don't come down with anything.
    Take Care!
    PS With the paint can "shaking it up" comment, I was expecting some 'romance over red paint' story! DARN IT! ;)

  21. Clint,
    Well my dad always said a burp was just the best way to send your compliments to the chef. I hope your waiter relayed the message:))

    Thank you so much. I would go for the mask with no problem. Seems considerate to me.

    Booster shot?? Now I like that thinking.Great way to put a positive spin on it.

    Oh my, you do have to be careful what you bring home don't you. Back in the day, I used to go to work sick thinking I was being a good employee and not a slacker. Duh.

    Don't feel badly. Evidently I am not good at decisions either for I did nothing.

    Aw, that bursts my bubble about the masks. I thought it was so considerate of them instead of being for self preservation. I had heard that on the news but your first hand version is most likely the true one.

    We just suffer in silence don't we? Unless we have a blog of course, Ha ha.

    Oregon Gifts,
    Well you certainly married a take charge, no nonsense,"get er done" type of guy. No reason why you can't blog about it.

    All right, another echinacea fan. They keep saying it doesn't help but if I take it in time, I never get sick. For me and obviously for you--it works.

    I do have allergies but was not feeling at all allergic at the time. I went to the same store today and he wasn't there. Pretty sure he is home healing.

    Linda Myers,
    Pretty sure he was working because there are dozens of people in line for his job. Whipping out a mask would have gotten the point across though.

    Me too with garlic. It is natures antibiotic and since I season everything but milk or cerial with it, I should have a good build up of it in my system.

    Lynda G,
    Aw, I am sorry Spring is giving you the punies. I was never allergic to anything till I moved here. Finally after 6 years, I have become desensitized and Spring is no longer to be dreaded.
    Hope you feel better soon.

  22. I would have done exactly what you did. I so hate to make people feel uncomfortable. I'd rather have pneumonia than hurt someone's feelings.

  23. I would have done the same thing - backed away. I think you were much more patient than I would have been. I would have lied and said I needed to run to a different department for a different product, would he please leave my purchase in customer service or something like that.

    You always bring a smile to my face. You are the best storyteller!

  24. My allergies manifest in the same way. I might have shrunk back a little, but I wouldn't have run away from him.

  25. Patti,
    I would have done the same thing; I would ahve allowed him to wait on me and encouraged him to go see and Dr. and been very charming, but the washe dmy hands like crazy like you did!
    I never want to hurt someone else's feelings...
    Patti, you alwasy meke me smile; thank you! I needed it today :)

  26. Oh, my! I had to laugh, but your story really hit a nerve with me. I would have done what you did --including the sanitizer bath in the car! But, like you, I've cringed so many times when someone with a cold was in close proximity. I have only one damaged lung and when I get a respiratory infection, it's hideous. I used to ride a commuter bus to UCLA, where I worked the last 5 years of employment, and would just feel desperate when on a fully loaded bus, with people standing, and a student sniffing with a severe cold would plop down beside me. I'd try to breathe minimally for 45 minutes. I really, really hope the man did have allergies and not a cold - and that you're O.K.!

  27. Even if it was allergies, someone else's germs can make you ill. I once had an Aunt that every time I visited her she would get a sore throat and she called me a carrier of germs, I never got sick but those around me apparently weren't immune to my germs. I always stay clear of those who are ill too as I can't afford to be sick. If you find yourself getting a bit ill, try the pill called the wellness formula obtained at the healthfood store, it is a caplet of vitamins and minerals and garlic, etc. all rolled into one pill (which I have to chop up to get down as I cant' swallow pills) but it works for both Gary and I to keep us from coming down with something if we have been exposed.

    I am all with you on steering clear of those who are ill. I think they should wear a mask; I know most can't afford to miss work. One never knows if there might be someone who would get violently ill from another's germs if they are exposed.

  28. marciamayo,
    I am so glad most of my readers are softies like me. I'd like to be bolder but it just isn't there.

    Retired English Teacher,
    Thank you so much. I had those thoughts but they wouldn't make my feet move.

    I have never coughed with my allergies but I'm sure many do.
    Went in the store yesterday morning and he wasn't there. Maybe on break??

    Thank you, glad you got to smile and it was useful. Me too on hurting anyone's feelings.

    Dr. Kathy McCoy,
    Goodness with your health problems, think I would find a classy designer mask and make it a part of my wardrobe. Buses and planes just trap you with the bugs and young people just seem to be bug harbors.

    Linda Starr,
    It does make sense that people can be carriers or perhaps she was just allergic to you.
    Good thing Gary isn't.

  29. I'd have been the coward standing right beside you. No, BEHIND you.

  30. I would have not only let him continue to wait on me, but probably made an effort to touch his shoulder or something..

    I'm so codependent (even with strangers), can't stand the thought of hurting someone's feelings....

    kind of pathetic, huh?

  31. You are such a good writer and your blog is so much fun. I could just see you in that store being coughed on all over. So vivid! I probably would have stayed. I have asked people to cough in another direction and been told it's just allergies. I would have washed my hands, that's for sure.

  32. It is pollen season .... I'd do the same as you. They have the paint you want and if your immune system is up, you most likely won't catch anything. You can scrub your hands really good when you get home..... and you used sanitizer as soon as you got to the car. That's a good idea to keep it in your car. You made the right move, in my book.

  33. I like a dummy would have continued to let the man wait on me, and then when I got to the car, would have done what you did. Have a great week-end.

  34. You've written so well about such a common situation. Living here in the cold, cold midwestern US, we have a long season for flu and colds. I am not a germaphobe, and I feel that we build our immune systems by fighting off the germs we encounter. But that guy just sounded gross. There is no excuse for hacking your lungs right onto another person. I might have made a comment which sounded kind but we actually nasty. "I certainly hope I don't come down with something like that! You sound miserable." As I wiped my receipt on the counter.

  35. Well, thanks to your delightful commenters, I just unloaded a burden of guilt that I acquired from laughing at your account of this distressing incident.

    Whew! Don't need anymore guilt! And I would have stayed. I am a total mannerly weenie, although in this case I think the weenie part would describe me better than the mannerly part. I would describe you, however, as really really determined to get that painting done!

    Great post!

  36. Well, I just wrote a comment and hit something wrong, probably because I was laughing so hard, and it disappeared. Like the big fish that got away, that disappearing comment was, of course, brilliant.

    Great post!

  37. Uh oh. Just remembered about that blog owner approval thingee. So multiple comments and red face for me! have a great weekend!

  38. marylee,
    Using me as a human shield are you?? Well at least you didn't run. Thanks.

    Rocky Mountain Woman,
    Aren't you sweet. I'd have only done that with some one I knew. You are the better person.

    Canyon Girl,
    Thank you so much. I do hope for his sake it was allergies.

    Thanks, and you are right, I did get my paint after all.

    You are polite also. No way to fight that.

    Now that is a good one. Gets the point across while sounding concerned. May borrow that.

    LC x 3
    I am so glad you found my humor. That is what I was going for. Got tickled at your three comments. I have done the same thing. Am flattered that you kept trying.

  39. My question is why didn't you buy spray paint in a can and shake it as you use it if you're doing outside furniture?

  40. Having taught for 21 years with students doing that to me every year, I would have stayed and bought the paint I so desperately wanted. It's the price we pay to live in society. Had it not been for his coughing, a germ left behind at the cash register from the previous customer who wiped his nose and then the counter, could have brought you down. You just never know. Keep taking the echinacea (I too am a believer) and start taking probiotics. I truly believe my good health has depended on those all these years.

  41. I tried to leave a commment yesterday, but Google did not love me and I could not. The most important thing is that you are ok today. The world would be a dimmer place if you left it owing to that poor old man's cough. Di

  42. Well, I am probably the wromg person to ask because given my Compromised Lungs, I wouldn't have been in the Hardware store in the first place--OR Any store for that matter. BUT....even if that were not the case, I would have high-tailed it away from him the second I heard the very first cough! Like you, Patti, I am my own caregiver and it is HELL, as you know, when we get sick--especially if it is serious.

    I think we all need to be more aware and considerate---like the Japanese....And in truth, that man should have not been working and exposing whatever he has to the public, fever or not. Things can be contagious without the person having a fever...!
    Also....lots of people wear gloves now, too...And masks and gloves should be required "wearing" in certain jobs---anyone working with food, for instance. But the bottom line? STAY HOME!!!!

  43. You have a wonderful way with words ...I could picture it all and it made me smile from ear to ear.
    I would have wanted to run but I would not have wanted to affend so I would have stayed but tried not to breath his expired air.

  44. mel,
    What I wanted to paint was two toned. It called for a steady hand and a brush.

    Welcome to TNS and thanks for stopping by. Like you said, I was most likely all ready exposed. Glad to meet another echinacea believer.

    Ha,ha-- an old man's cough would be an uneventful way to check out. Would like something a little more impressive.

    I agree. That is what people who go to work sick don't consider. Someone like you with a compromised lung condition that I am sure even a cold is dreaded. I vote for masks too.

    Thanks for the nice compliment. I think you and I are in the majority here.

  45. Having been born in the last century, I've been exposed to countless strains of germs in my time and have therefore built up an amazing immunity. I would have done like you and removed most of the coughing and sneezing droplets/spray with sanitizer! I'm thinking that sometimes we can over sanitize and don't give our body a chance to build up its immunity! Loved your post and your detailed description!

  46. Hi Patti, I would have done what you did... It's hard to escape the germs around us --and people are NOT careful.

    I try to clean the handle of the grocery cart each time I use it. I always think of that last baby sitting there who was SICK... Yipes!!!!!

    Guess we can't be too careful these days... But--I wouldn't have left the store because of it.

    Glad you didn't catch whatever he shared with you.

  47. Roger and I had a very similar experience a couple of years ago when we were still living in Port Townsend, WA. A very sick cashier touched every food item we bought. When we left the store, we both felt it was outrageous that such a sick person was working and touching our food. So, we went back in with all of our groceries and asked if we could replace all of it with new stuff and a new cashier. They thought we were crazy, but they complied.

  48. Thanks for your visit. Hope none of those storms got to your place.

  49. I realized the reason why I left a message and did not think it "took" is because I don't recognize my self. Oh Dear!!

  50. Karin,
    Thank you so much for stopping by TNS. Welcome. You are right about immunities. I have a friend who is a real germaphobe and she is very vulnerable because of lack of exposure.

    Thanks. That is a good idea for even if the baby wasn't sick but just had a leaky diaper----yikes.

    Knowing you probably bought mostly produce, I can see your concern. I am sure your action may have gotten the girl a sick day.

    Thanks for asking. The storms went south of us but we have a new batch of storms coming Tues that is aiming for us in the north. This is the season.

    Oh how funny. You hide too well.

  51. I would have done what you did! Thanks for this priceless story! Thanks also for your comment on my Psalm. Yes I also have problems with David's hatred , which he shows in many of his psalms. What are worthless people? I don't know either.For me there aren't any.

  52. LOL Sorry Patti honey but I being in the same boat as you as my sole caretaker I would have run over him getting to the door. hahaha
    Like you it is hard to be sick living alone.
    I too go to great lengths not to offend someone but as we both know Ms Pearl has a mind of her own now and I would probably have to run so she would not blast the guy for waiting on customers sick. Thats how the germs spread so quickly.
    Stay at home if your sick.
    Girl I was checking on you today because I have been worried about you with all those storms out in Ark. Let me know if your okay.
    I totally understand about the well being dry. My back pain is so bad these days I can't think of anything to write about. lol
    Love ya

  53. I would have let him continue. I also bathe in hand sanitizer and am an avid hand-washer. I have not used a sick day at work for myself (we're allowed "family sick" to care for loved-ones) since 2002 - and that was for a wisdom tooth, so I think my practices are sound.

    I was more concerned with the paint-part of the story. On Sunday we were in the hardware store and Mrs sent me off with a Heritage Red paint swatch and orders to get one quart of high-gloss exterior latex from the large paint section of the store. They only carry semi-gloss because there is not much demand for high-gloss. What?! But I am here NOW for it. No dice.

    Enjoy your blogging break. :)

  54. I would have been hacking and coughing and sneezing only a few minutes after the young man's first mishap.

    You have a good immune system if 4 days have passed and you are still having no ill effects. Hope it continues.

  55. Reader Wil,
    Thankd Wil, That was the same problem that I had with David. It was for sure a different time.

    I hope you are a better caregiver than I am:)) Thanks for the contact info.

    Looks like your diet and lots of running has paid off health wise. You go guy.

    Well, I missed catching anything but my allergies have kicked into high gear lately. That may have really been his problem.

  56. Got to say this. Please consider putting your blog stories into an eBook or paperback. I'm sure you know many people who would be happy to reread them. I'd be happy to help you, and of course will tweet about it.

  57. Miss Dazey,
    Thank you for thinking there might be an audience for my ramblings. I once thought I would write seriously but then when I discovered blogging, I found my niche. I get to write, some actually come to read and I get instant feed back. What is not to love?

  58. Like the majority of commenters I too would have carried on the way you did. I suspect it's a bit out on hoping to be understanding to the other's problem.
    I love the way you wrote this.
    Allergies ? maybe but a lesson in sneezing might be in order for that fellow.

  59. KleinsteMotte
    You know, I have been in that store since that episode and I haven't seen him. Hope he is OK. I do know my allergies have really kicked into gear but mine are in the form of itchy eyes and runny nose.