Mask Milksop

Query (or impertinent question, depending on how you look at it): do anti-maskers teach their kids to sneeze into their elbows? Or do they just let them let it rip, and let the droplets fall as they may?

Do they mind being sneezed or coughed on? Do they understand how colds are transmitted from one person to another?

If they do understand how a sneeze or a cough could pass on a cold, why won’t they wear a mask to avoid passing on COVID-19? Can it be that even with 2 million dead globally, nearly 400,000 in the US alone, these people still don’t believe it’s real??

Logic, it would seem, has nothing to do with it. Apparently, you can’t fight magical thinking with science, or even common sense.

It didn’t occur to me to take a picture of the maskless woman in the grocery store. It probably wouldn’t have occurred to me even if I wasn’t rushing quickly in the opposite direction, as fast as I could, without knocking other shoppers down.

The manager asked me as I was checking out how I was doing. I said, OK, except for the maskless woman.

The manager said “maybe I have an extra one” and went to deal with the situation. I didn’t hear any shouting, so either maskless woman couldn’t be found, or had already left.

Or–unlikely, but possible–maskless woman accepted a mask from the manager.

As I was stumping angrily back to my car, pushing my now full cart, I imagined myself saying, “Hey, Typhoid Mary! Smile for the camera! You’re about to get Twitter shamed!”

But I don’t do stuff like that. I’m not one of those people so tethered to social media that I think about documenting each of the multiple affronts of daily living we all encounter.

Driving home, still wearing my two masks, one with a filter inside, I thought about how, each week, my church’s pastor recites this benediction at the end of the Facebook church service:

“And now may you go in peace, rendering no one evil for evil, but instead, make the choice to be a source of God’s light and God’s love in this lifetime.”

The store manager did exactly that – the first thing she thought of was to offer the maskless woman a mask.

I’m not hopeful that a person who spends the better part of an hour strolling VERRRRYY SLOWLY through a grocery store without wearing a mask would accept one when offered.

But it’s worth a try.

When I encountered the maskless woman, I backed up. WAAAAAY back, in my double mask with filter inside.

The weird thing was, this woman didn’t look angry or defiant.

She looked confused.

Which made me think that there might be an explanation for why she wasn’t wearing a mask that didn’t require me to think of her as a profoundly inconsiderate, uncaring, ignorant, selfish, science denier.

Perhaps she has a medical condition. Maybe she’s autistic, and the wearing a mask is like tactile torture to her.

Or maybe she’s had a stroke, or she has an intellectual disability that makes it hard for her to remember to wear a mask, or difficult to understand why she should.

Taking that store manager (an exceptionally calm woman, given the fact she’s been managing a grocery store throughout this pandemic) as an example, I’m going to bring a few extra masks with me next time. And, at the risk of being berated by a defiant maskhole just itching for a fight, I won’t be a milksop. I’ll offer a maskless person a mask.

“It looks like you forgot your mask. Here’s one you can have!” I’ll chirp cheerfully.

I’ll leave the mask on an a shelf within view but several more than 6 feet away, and walk away.

I will refrain from asking why the person thinks they are exempt from the rules, and why they don’t give a crap about the possibility they could cause someone else in the store to get sick and even die.

Not that I won’t be thinking it, but still. I’ll try to keep my mind open to other possible explanations.

Then I’ll go home and try to forget about it while I anxiously cross the next 14 days off the calendar, quelling panic at every tiny cough, as I have done this whole time after every encounter with a maskless person.

At this point I’m just praying that, along with everyone who has made it this far, I make it far enough to get vaccinated.

And that the anti-maskers, many of whom are probably also anti-vaxers, will come to their senses, and get vaccinated too.

Until then, I remain,

your anxious, hypochondriacal, trying to do the “one day at a time” thing,


Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay