Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) caught me at birth, and has left me with a lifetime of counting things. I can’t help it. I count stairs, light poles on street sections, cars in chains moving against me on mountain roads. I have even been known to count tiles on a shower ceiling or bricks in a wall. Why, even this late in my life, I can’t help myself, is a mystery. And, I smile every time I catch myself.
Today, I counted pedestrians, runners and bicyclers – and included city workers. My rules for this silly made-up game today were simple. They had to pass me on my ninety minute four-mile walk early this morning. Statistics show that 1.2 percent of adults, or 1in 40, have OCD. Now I wonder how many of the people I passed were counting something.
The neighborhood that I live in is a lovely, trendy, and well-known suburb of Los Angeles . It is full of “the beautiful people” as I like to call them: healthy, energetic, athletic, and most are younger than yours truly, and as I like to say, “They keep me young.” The walkways and, trails and paths are very wide; in most cases are at least 10’ wide. They are well maintained and manicured, and appeal to my ADD and yes, my OCD mind, too.
This morning I set out on a walk that prior to the horrific fires in our neighborhoods was a daily ritual. Today was the first day out for me in a week. My wife warned me about going outdoors in such conditions, but I responded that I always wear a mask these days, and besides, I was sure everyone else would be too – even the indignantly righteous few in our community who eschew science and the human kindness of protecting others – because of the extreme smoke and air pollution in the area. So back to counting…
I set out on my walk and was so stunned that the first five people I passed did not wear any face coverings that I stopped and texted my wife. Her response? “They are especially stupid.” As I continued on my walk, the counting started. I couldn’t help it. The little abacus in my brain stated pulling beads. Who wore a mask? Who didn’t? And who didn’t wear a mask until they were so close to me that they pulled their shirt up over their mouths, or had a cloth/mask that they held against their face, or who just used their hand? And did this latter group belong in the mask-wearers’ column? Or should I give them partial credit?
You may all find this incredibly boring, but my brain finds it fascinating, especially today where Covid19 is still holding court across America. Just yesterday, I learned of five new cases that had inflicted varying degrees of fear and harm to friends. With every passing day, and every passing pedestrian, this pandemic seems to be trying to touch my family and me.
So, let me share a little of my ADD-affected brain with you. I counted everyone who passed me in either direction on my 90-minute walk. Here is what I calculated:
- People wearing masks – 19
- People raising a face covering when near – 4 (included in the 19 above)
- People not wearing masks (not even around their necks) – 28
- Runners, without a mask, passing within a foot or two of me, from behind with no warning, when they could have run to the far side of the trail or walkway – 6
All of these numbers make me sick. Emotionally. Hopefully, not physically. By my calculation, roughly 60% of my neighbors were so thoughtless and/or selfish, that they put me, and my family, at risk this morning. And as for the runners passing me from behind within “my space”? They made up 13% of my encounters and were, at best, so profoundly self-centered as to care nothing about others, and at worst, purposely putting unsuspecting fellow human beings at profound risk of infection.
In processing all of this, I am feeling helpless and sad beyond breath. Are my kind, vibrant, healthy neighbors “keeping me young”? Or is their thoughtless, selfish, behavior “killing me”? Let me count thy ways.