When it comes my attire, I don’t go in for accessorizing beyond a belt to keep my pants up and a watch to tell time.
Then coronavirus came along and with it, the need to wear something over my face to ensure if I caught the deadly virus but didn’t know it, I would be less likely to pass it on to someone waiting in line in front of me at the grocery store.
The first time I sought to go out for groceries in those early days of COVID-19, I found myself stuck trying to find a suitable face covering. I thought I had a basic dust mask in the basement, where I keep my tools. I trudged down looking for one of those masks you usually buy at the hardware store in multi-packs. You know, the white ones with the thick rubber band.
All I could find was a heavy-duty respirator for finishing work. I was not quite prepared to go to the store in that.
My next idea was a handkerchief. I thought I had one of those classic red ones with the cowboy pattern on it, like you’d see cowboys wear in a Western. But no, I could only find small white ones for allergy season — not big enough to tie around me neck.
I settled on a wool scarf — on a surprisingly warm spring day, I might add.
And yes, I looked like a bank robber from the 1800s. I opted not to wear a cowboy hat and thought it best to leave my six-shooter at home, lest anyone get the wrong impression.
But look, the other that afternoon — the respirator — was no winner either. It would have had me looking like Darth Vader, and probably sounding like the “Star Wars” villain too. By the way, you can tell which generation I am because I went with a Darth Vader reference and not Kylo Ren, not that I am making any judgments on which of the “Star Wars” series is better.
Wearing masks is incredibly important as we try to stop the spread of COVID-19. We can all agree though, that as it was heretofore not customary to see folks wearing masks in public other than on Halloween, those first covered-up outings as the pandemic surged could be awkward.
When I’m wandering around the grocery store, I find myself smiling and nodding to those I pass by, a silent but friendly hello to strangers. But people can’t see you smile behind a mask. I had to keep reminding myself of that on that first trip out with my itchy and unnecessarily warm bank robber scarf.
One solution to that problem was to wear one of those white dust masks with a smile drawn on it. Rather than making me look happy, it seemed to give people the impression that I might be just a little unhinged. I ditched it after two outings.
Ultimately I found a three-pack of black fabric masks at Walgreens. Though I continue to keep trying to smile at people in the stores, I don’t feel quite like a bank robber or horror movie villain.
And continuing to wear masks is of vital importance in keeping the COVID-19 pandemic at bay.
I’m done with the jokes here, this is life and death.
The nation’s top health experts agree. Our local health experts agree. Wearing a mask prevents the spread of the coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose expertise in the field of infectious disease is right there in the agency’s entire name, offers this simple reminder: “Your mask may protect them. Their mask may protect you.”
Yet we keep seeing viral clips of retail workers and others being accosted for trying to reinforce mask recommendations and requirements.
“In the future, respect my rights, no one else’s,” a man shouted at Walmart employees in Alaska in a viral clip from late last month. “I have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. ... You have no authority over me.”
We also see videos from local government meetings throughout the country in which officials reviewing public health mandates are being called tyrants for considering mask requirements.
“I hope every one of you gets voted out who votes for a mask here today. Shame on you for voting for a mask,” a Florida woman yelled at the Palm Beach County Commission during a meeting in June.
We all want to be done with this. We all want life to go back to normal. But if we rush it, if we reopen everything too soon, if we relax social distancing standards before this pandemic is really under control, if we stop caring about our neighbors and focus solely on ourselves, then life, schools, the economy, none of it will go back to “normal” anytime soon.
Email Divilio at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_Divilio.