I have psoriasis. I’m pretty sure I mentioned that before, but it showed up when I was about 21 and has been going strong ever since. I don’t write about it much, because I don’t want this to be an “oh woe is me my skin is all funky and gross don’t you feel bad for me” blog. Generally I don’t even care, except when it kinda hurts or itches sometimes. It is what it is, you know? Life could be a lot worse. It’s not life-threatening, the arthritis that is associated with it hasn’t hit me very hard yet. It could be lots worse.
Anywhoo, so I’m at Food Lion several weeks ago (as an aside, I just recently started shopping at Food Lion – it’s cheap and they’re all, “Welcome to Food Lion”, which is nice) when a checkout dude gave me the stink eye just for having red scaly patches on my hands. I mean, come on. It’s not like I spit on him or wiped a booger on the conveyor belt. Him: long fluffy dark hair and patchy facial hair. Little wire-framed glasses. Me: work clothes (slacks and shirt), arms exposed. He wrinkles his nose when he looks at my arms, and then when I go to hand him my MVP card he tosses it back to me (even though I had my hand out) and then vigorously squirts hand sanitizer all over his hands and rubs them for, like, a whole minute.
I casually take my receipt, pick up my bags, and leave. I think about touching him as much as possible – patting him on the hand to say thank you, etc. I think about peeling off a flake and flicking it at him. I think about going back and explaining that what I have is in no way contagious and that he shouldn’t worry himself into a frenzy tonight that he might catch LEPROSY or a SKIN EATING BACTERIA and that maybe the next time he should ASK what’s wrong with me, because that’s a lot more polite than TREATING ME LIKE I’M DIRTY.
So then yesterday, at the same Food Lion (hey, it’s on my way home and it sells jarred pimentos) I go to check out in someone else’s line (Mama didn’t raise no fools) and she tells me the line on the end is open. I go to the line on the end. The lady there is spraying down the conveyor belt with Windex and informs me she’s not ready yet. I appreciate her spraying down the conveyor belt so I just shrug and walk over to the next line, which is manned by Mr. Sneer and Look at You In Disgust. I should mention that I saw him when I first came in, and I had shorts on yesterday (the horror!) so my calves and knees were showing, and they have some of the worst spots on them. I saw him look down at my left calf, and then turn away real fast. I didn’t think any more of it. So anyway, here I am in his line again, and he says, “This here is the 12 item or less isle, you’ll have to go somewhere else.” I, flustered, inform him that the other lady sent me down to the end and the end wasn’t open yet, but I yank my cart out of the checkout isle and go back to the isle I was in orignially. As I put my items on the conveyor belt I count them. 15. I had 15 items.
So, am I being paranoid? Did this dude’s first reaction to me make me expect a second, shitty reaction, or was he just consistently rude to me? I tend to lean toward the latter, because I really felt persecuted for a minute there, and I don’t get persecuted very easily. Really I don’t.
So, if you’re ever in a situation like this guy, where someone has got some awful rash and you don’t know what it is, trust me when I tell you that most people will appreciate an upfront approach. Here are some good ice-breakers:
“Hey, did you get into some poison ivy?”
“Wow, that rash looks painful, what is it?”
“What is that all over you?”
That last one seems a little blunt, but it’s a helluva lot better than just treating someone like they’re infectious.