A STORY & A BIAS
It’s Just A Story
JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group
21 May 2020
It was a warm and sunny day in May, the temperature was 72 degrees. It’s not a common occurrence in the northeastern United States. In my 40 years of existing on this planet, I’d seen several warm Mays but also many chilly ones. And this was the warmest May 2nd of my life! And I’m grateful for it.
We’ve been living through crazy times and feeling the warm sunshine on my face reminds me there’s an end in sight. I’ve been following the rules and wearing my mask every time I head out into public. But today, I want to bend them. I want to feel the warm sun on my face, so I’ve decided to go grocery shopping without my mask. I want to feel the sun and I want the strangers to see me smile. I want to be the catalyst for brightening up someone’s day.
As I walk up and down the aisles, I get dirty looks from several people. I know what they’re thinking, but they don’t know my priorities. I smile anyway. I’m the master of my own destiny. The government won’t shield the public from my contagious joy! It’s mine to share and I’ll share it!
It Was Fun, But Now I’m Undone
I wake up on May 14th in the wee hours of the morning. It’s still dark, and I have a very uneasy feeling as I start to cough. I tell myself it’s all in my head and crack open my latest book, hoping to fall back asleep and add a few hours to my slumber. But it doesn’t come, and now my throat is scratchy. I also wonder why I’m starting to feel hot when I know it’s only 40 degrees outside. I remove my heavy blanket and realize I’m sweating. These are terrible signs. After two hours of chasing the idea of falling back to sleep, I decide to get up and take a shower. That’ll set me right.
As soon as I step in, I notice that the shower hurts my skin. When I get out, I grab the thermometer and head back into my bed. I roll over to the left side as the right side is now drenched in sweat. **beep, beep** The thermometer reads 101.5. I tell myself it’s likely high because I took a warm shower. And I wait 20 minutes before I check it again. **beep, beep** The thermometer reads 102.1.
It’s 75 degrees outside, and I can’t enjoy the sunshine. The thought of the sun’s warm rays makes my feverish skin crawl. I hide inside in my bedroom, which I currently refer to as the Cave of Despair. I’ve got it. I know it. COVID19 – you evil virus – I’ve succumbed to you. I wonder how long it will last and how horrible it’ll be. The summer weather is approaching, and I can’t help but think that if I’d worn my mask to the grocery store two weeks ago, I could’ve avoided it all together. Was it worth spreading my smile? No. Was it worth feeling the mild sun on my face? No. I could’ve gone outside in the back yard. Why did I insist on going to a store, fully in the public, and risking my health? I thought I was above this. I wasn’t. I thought I was bigger than COVID19. I was wrong.
And when did I get infected? Did I spread the virus because I didn’t wear a mask? Did I give it to the people at the store because I was already infected but hadn’t yet manifested symptoms? I may have been sharing more than my smile that day.
A Bias Tale
When you read this story did you agree wholeheartedly? Did you feel yourself nodding your head in agreement? Did you want to share it because you knew a similar story? Did you want to exercise your prerogative not to wear a mask? Or did you think about wearing a mask to spare your neighbors and friends should you be an unwitting, asymptomatic carrier of the virus?
Maybe you wanted to stop reading it once you found out what it was all about. You immediately thought, “Well, that’s just one story and it’s not likely.” Perhaps you even said, “This is a made-up story. It’s pure malarkey. She’s got an agenda.”
Regardless of your reaction, please know your brain is conforming to cognitive bias. The story confirmed what you believed was right, or it made you want to disprove and discredit me. Either way, it didn’t change your mind. I know that.
We are who we are. No one can change us except ourselves. Here’s to learning more about our mistakes so we can accept them and move forward with fresh perspectives. Here’s to understanding why we do what we do. Here’s to learning how to overcome it all.
And for the love of others, if not yourself, wear a mask!