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

Thinking Thematically

I got a notification that my stats had experienced a surge yesterday, January 18, 2021, when this blog post was at the top of my home page.

I can’t explain it, other than maybe some weird, misguided attraction to the word “revolution,” which, used here, is just another way of saying “resolution.” As in New Year’s.

The phrase that contains the word links back to a post I wrote a few years ago, about changing things as a way to keep going after my husband died of cancer. So if anyone came looking for something darker, I hope they were very, very disappointed. And I hope they never come back.

I used to make a list of New Year’s “Revolutions.” The idea of changing something that I can’t change back has helped me keep moving ahead, in these years without Mike.

We just passed our 5th New Year’s Even without him. It was weird. Angelic Daughter went to bed early and slept through the sounds of fireworks from somewhere close by. I was surprised they even had them this year.

I finally turned on the TV to watch the last 45 minutes or so of the odd, empty Times Square celebrations, flipping back and forth until I settled on CNN as the most entertaining. I was lucky to land there just in time to see Andra Day sing a stunningly beautiful rendition of “Imagine.”

The recorded music that played after the ball drop included Ray Charles’ version of “America,” which made me cry, thinking that we sure could use some more of God’s grace shed on us right now.

I waited until it was midnight in Chicago to open the Veuve Clicquot. We tried it years ago, before it cost $40 a bottle, and liked it. Made it a tradition for New Year’s Eve. When Mike was here, I remember describing the flavor as “like drinking liquid gold glitter.” This year, it tasted too dry to me.

I’ve always been vaguely aware that the Veuve Clicquot brand was run by a widow, taking over for her husband in the late 1700s. But I wasn’t thinking about Madame Clicquot when I bought the bottle – I was just thinking of remembering Mike on New Year’s Eve.

When I got the bottle out of the fridge, I noticed something on the back label that I hadn’t before: there’s a line across the bottom that says, “La Veuve The Widow Die Witwe La Viuda La Viuva.”

Wow. Rub it in, much? “Widow,” in 5 languages!

I’ve never felt more widow-y than in 2020. Being responsible for Angelic Daughter’s safety this year has been nerve wracking. “Don’t take your mask off!” “Wash your hands for two Happy Birthdays!” DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE!”

I hope my bouts of hysterical maternal protection haven’t made things harder for Angelic Daughter. She’s been so resilient and patient, but the loneliness is getting to her. She misses her friends. She reaches out with texts and calls, but half are never answered. She sends greeting cards. Of the twenty or so friends she has sent cards to, five have responded. Yet she doesn’t lose hope.

“Almost to the New Year!” “Almost Martin Luther King Day!” “We’ll have meet-ups again soon!”

I guess I can be excused for not building a business empire of my own, like Madame Clicquot did, this past year. But that line on her champagne label made me look back on those past New Year’s Eves with Mike with a chill – that portent, a warning, staring us right in the face. I didn’t notice it then, but I’ll never forget it now.

Recently, I found out about a different way to look at aspirations for a new year: choosing one word to guide your actions, instead of making a list of resolutions. Apparently this is something Melinda Gates popularized.

I’ve been trying to come up with my word for 2021. Gates has used “grace,” “shine,” “spacious,” and “gentle.”

I want a word that helps me focus on what’s truly important. I want a word that filters out the noise, and helps me live with love and laughter. This past year has been a tough test for both of those.

I thought of “purpose,” but that’s not quite it. “Meaning” doesn’t seem quite right, either. I want a word that evokes an appreciation for the preciousness of time–that every second matters, and I should live that way.

Intentionality? Nah, too new-agey-trendy. Savor? Makes me think of food. What one word would encapsulate the desire to make every minute count?

“Urgency” sounds too desperate. I’m trying to stay calm here, but focus on what’s important. “Clarity” is good, but I think Ms. Gates has used that one, and I don’t want to be a copycat.

How about “lucid?” The synonyms for that one get into bright, gleaming, luminous, etc. I checked for synonyms for “present,” as in “I’m here,” but I was looking for a word that implies being present-mindfully, lovingly, present.

That brought me back to “now.” Why didn’t I think of that? Actually, I did think of that, a few years ago, in much the same way.

So, I think I’ve got it. My word for 2021 will be “now.” That’s a word that will help me attend to how I’m spending my time, each moment of each day, without before and after.

Happy I spent “now” writing this for you, I remain,

your flawed, anxious, trying to stay calm and attentive,