Thank You to the Unmasked Man on the Escalator at King’s Cross Tube Station

Blame down and responsibility up

In recent weeks I’ve been travelling to London again from the island. It’s less frequent than before lockdown and, like all of us, travelling, and life, for me has changed.

Until yesterday I’d got around by walking or using a Santander Cycle. Yesterday circumstances meant my first journey on the Underground since Coronavirus became part of my vocabulary. 

We are supposed to wear a mask on public transport and I do. I know there’s a whole debate about the value and effectiveness of wearing masks. I believe masks may reduce passing the virus on and that wearing a mask is about respecting others. 

I was mightily impressed by the number of people wearing masks on the Tube and enjoyed seeing the creativity of some of the masks. Some really have become fashion accessories. It felt like everyone was doing their bit. 

Then I noticed the occasional person that wasn’t wearing a mask or wearing a mask that was neither use nor ornament as it hung from one ear or was pulled down under their chin. I understand some people are unable to wear a mask for health reasons though it’s possible everyone I saw without a mask fell into that camp I doubted it. I had begun to assume and assumption is the mother of all mess ups! 

Going up the escalator at Kings Cross I saw a man on a different escalator who was level with me and wasn’t wearing a mask. I gave him my ‘you are a selfish idiot and ought to know better’ annoyed stare over the top of my mask and guess what? It didn’t make any difference. How could it? He carried on up the escalator oblivious to my feelings. In that moment I realised what I’d been doing and it’s why I’m grateful to him. 

After my initial buzz of the many who were wearing masks, I’d focused on the rare few who weren’t. I’d started to see more and more people without masks, or masks at a jaunty angle, and the people wearing masks properly less and less. I’d become wrapped up in my own story and righteousness and, regardless of how amazing my ‘staring over my mask’ skills are, the only person impacted was me. I was deciding where I focused my attention which, in turn, determined how I was feeling. 

My feelings are my feelings and only my responsibility. They have nothing to do with non mask wearers or anyone else. They are up to me and by focusing on what made me annoyed unsurprisingly I’d become annoyed! 

Where we choose to focus determines how we’ll feel. It follows just as night follows day. We can’t focus on sad things and expect to feel happy or happy things and expect to feel sad. It doesn’t work and it can’t work. 

The man on the escalator will never know how grateful I am for this reminder just as the driver who pulls out in front of me or the train that arrives late will never know how I’m feeling. That is up to me. 

What are you choosing to focus on today? 

Enjoy the day you create. 

Martin