Rise of an anti-hero?

By Matt Dionne

Those who know me know I can be an impulsive person, and as much as I like to think I’ve matured regarding my decision-making over the last few years, I still want to react erratically at times. 

Like many, the last year has been a struggle—under normal circumstances, the majority of my day is spent training. I’ve been a competitive athlete for nearly my entire life, and I’m happiest when I’m training for a competition. 

For the last five years, I have been training as a boxer. I’ve won three of Ontario’s four major tournaments, and I even had an international fight in Bermuda—which I won via unanimous decision. 

A typical day for me starts with a lift in the morning, followed by a boxing workout at noon, and then a run in the afternoon. 

However, when the pandemic hit, all that went away—gyms closed down, I lost my routine, and I was essentially knocked out of alignment. 

I initially spent a week pouting, before figuring out an alternative: a storage locker I converted into my own personal workout space, replete with a punching bag, adjustable dumbbells with weights, and a bench. 

This helped me retain my sanity through much of the pandemic, but the inability to go about my day as I normally would was still grating on me. 

It didn’t help that I would constantly encounter people who felt the rules didn’t or shouldn’t apply to them. You know the type—they watch a 14-minute video on YouTube and suddenly they know more than doctors and epidemiologists. 

Normally, I have very little patience for fools, but during a pandemic, I have even less (if that’s possible). 

As the weeks turned into months, and we are now approaching a year and a half of closures or restrictions, I no longer have patience for people I perceive to be perpetuating the pandemic. 

I first realized this when I was waiting in line to get into Walmart. 

I was already on edge, because I had been to three stores that day already (and waited in three lines) in hopes that I would be able to get some more weights to add to my current collection. 

The website said they had them in stock, but my head said they didn’t. Despite my doubt, I stood in the massive line—probably 60 or 70 people—anyway. 

While we all stood outside, waiting for our turn to get into the store, the guy in front of me decided to light up a cigarette. 

As an athlete, I found this irksome (I’m not a fan of the smell, or the effects of second-hand smoke). I assumed, after lighting it, he would step out of line as a courtesy to everyone else who may not want to partake in his habit. 

He did not. 

With the line barely moving, and my nostrils now assaulted by the pungent smell of cigarette smoke, I became even more irritated than when I initially arrived. 

I decided I would not abide by this. 

“Hey, do you mind putting that out, or stepping out of line to smoke it?” I asked, as politely as I could bring myself to sound. 

His response further exacerbated my irritation—he didn’t say a word, he didn’t even turn around, he just flipped me off and continued to puff on his cigarette. 

My hands instinctively balled into fists, and I had to restrain myself from giving into my first instinct—violence. 

Instead, I grabbed the cigarette from his hand, tossed it on the ground, and stomped it out. 

“Hey, what do you think you’re—” he started to say in a thick Russian accent, before pausing when he turned and saw me staring him down. 

I took a step closer, so we were nearly nose-to-nose—he was quite a bit shorter than me, and, while he appeared to have a bit of a beer belly, he looked like he weighed less as well. 

“Go ahead, finish that sentence.” 

We continued our stare down, like two fighters who just made weight and had to pose for the pre-fight pictures. 

Finally, he decided he didn’t want that smoke. He stepped out of line and walked all the way to the parking lot then lit up another cigarette, well out of range of the people in line. 

After the adrenaline wore off, I looked around, expecting to be met with looks of disdain, but rather I saw expressions of adulation. People even started clapping—I got a standing ovation (of course everyone was standing, since they were all still in line it would have been weird if they weren’t). 

A few weeks later, I found myself dealing with another loathsome loudmouth in line. 

Once again, the line was particularly long, and when I was the penultimate person in it, the covidiot in front of me started arguing with the security guard letting people into the store. 

He apparently didn’t want to wear a mask, but the guard was refusing to let him into the store without one. 

All the while, me and everyone else in line were being forced to wait for this asshole to finish his debate. 

Finally, after listening to enough half-baked theories about how masks are worse for you than the virus, I had had enough. 

“Listen, friend, you have three choices right now. One, you can put on a damn mask like everyone else and continue with your life. Two, you can step out of line, and continue arguing with the security guard. Or three, you can go the fuck to sleep in this parking lot,” I said.

I could see him trying to process what I had just said—he seemed like the aggressive type, and I was expecting him to take a swing at me. 

But for all his bluster and bravado, he evidently didn’t have any balls, as he finally pulled a wrinkled mask out of his pocket, put it on, and went inside. 

Once again, I expected to be rebuked, but once again I was met with praise—the security guard even started to offer me a high-five, before remembering the current health crisis, and extending his elbow for a COVID-high-five instead. 

This second encounter just further emboldened me to continue confronting covidiots who feel they can disregard the rules. 

So far, no one has accepted my challenges, but I look forward to the moment someone does—sparring is currently in short supply, and I could always use more. 

Copyright© 2021 by Matt Dionne

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