Unmasked: A Guy Walks in to a Grocery Store…

He had to walk by a sign that said that those entering must cover their nose and mouth. You couldn’t miss it: it was right in front of the doors.

Illinois is back under a mask mandate because hospitalizations are rising and the Governor, prudently, is concerned about running out of ICU beds and beds for other sick and injured people, including children.

I put my mask on in the car, walked into the store, grabbed what I needed, found a checkout lane, and started unloading. As I waved my phone over the payment device to pay, the next guy gets in line.

He’s not wearing a mask.

“I have an extra mask if you need one,” I say, fishing one out of my purse.

He raises his eyebrows, and then smiles and says, with intentionally fake sincerity, “I have one in my pocket, thank you. God Bless You.”

And that’s when I didn’t say all the things I should have said.

So, Maskhole, I’ll get those things said now, even though I wish I had said them to your unmasked face. If I was more social media savvy, I would have made a video of an exchange that would have gone something like this:

“Why is the mask in your pocket and not on your face? Do you breathe through your hip? Really? You must be an alien! Cool. But seriously dude, you wouldn’t want to take this virus back to your home planet. I strongly recommend you put your mask on, over whatever orifices you breathe through.

Oh, you’re not an alien? So help me understand: why don’t the rules don’t apply to you? Do you have some kind of exemption? No? You just don’t care that you could infect a child under 12, who can’t get vaccinated yet, when you breathe all over said child with your smug, arrogant, unmasked face?

And when said child becomes gravely ill, maybe even dies?

May God have mercy on your soul.”

It feels good to get that off my chest, but it doesn’t actually do any good. The mask wars are now being played out in schools in states with Republican governors, including Arizona, Texas, and Florida, where politicians would rather let their citizens die than impose mask mandates.

In Arizona, Texas and Florida, governors have actually prohibited local school districts from requiring masks, and have threatened to or actually withheld funds from schools that require them. A Florida court struck down an order prohibiting masks, but in Hillsborough County, Florida, where parents were allowed to opt-out of a mask mandate, thousands of kids have been exposed and are quarantined, leaving school again just when they got back.

The worst part of it? Craven, self-serving politicians are using COVID as a political tool.

“Rather than work with him to vaccinate the country, Biden’s Republican opposition has, with only a few exceptions, done everything in its power to politicize vaccination and make refusal to cooperate a test of partisan loyalty. The party is, for all practical purposes, pro-Covid. If it’s sincere, it is monstrous. And if it’s not, it is an unbelievably cynical and nihilistic strategy. Unfortunately for both Biden and the country, it appears to be working.”

Jamelle Bouie, New York Times Opinion, 8/31/21

At what point will rational people, who are willing to take simple measures like mask wearing to protect their fellow citizens from a deadly virus, rise up en masse and say we’ve had enough of this deadly, science-denying bullshit and require both masks and vaccinations? (follow that vaccination link for a wonderfully obscene rant against the unvaccinated).

Oh, that’s right – in states with Republican legislative majorities that represent a minority of their state got in power due to gerrymandering that reduced the voting power of people of color and pretty much anyone who doesn’t vote their way, legislatures have pushed through restrictive voting laws, also intended to suppress majorities that would vote those bastards out of office in a New York minute if their districts were fairly drawn, their votes counted, and their voices heard.

Those voter suppression laws include features designed to empower Republicans to overrule a legal, fair election: so these “lawmakers” are admitting that they will not accept the result of any election they lose.

I said I’d avoid politics in this blog – but this is less politics than survival: both for fellow citizens, regardless of politics, and for our democracy. I can’t face, or let Angelic Daughter be subjected to, a future where the whole country looks like Texas.

May God have mercy on us all.

Grateful that I live where I do, and hopeful my country can stave off a death spiral into authoritarianism, I remain,

Your anxious, bereaved, befuddled, and mask-wearing,

Ridiculouswoman

Globe mask image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

Crowd Noise

The noise hit me as soon as I entered the park. I hadn’t heard that sound since two years before the pandemic, when my widow-brain calmed and I stopped going to concerts and ball games as a way to remember Mike.

The noise stopped me in my tracks. Everyone had been dutifully wearing their masks on the park-n-ride bus, and the staff was amply supplied with masks to give to those who had forgotten to bring one.

But entering the park, I didn’t see any masks on staff or concertgoers, except staff manning concession and drink stands. People were crammed together blanket to blanket, picnic wagon to picnic wagon, folding table to folding table.

And everyone was having a blast.

I went to the “merch” stand (mask still on), knowing Angelic Daughter would expect a t-shirt. I let my mask dangle from one ear, keeping my distance, sipping a beverage.

Then I found a bench to sit on until the pavilion opened, and sat down to read a free magazine, as hordes of people walked by, nearly brushing my knees, in search of an open patch of grass to claim as theirs. There were kids too young to be vaccinated, happily playing and running around and screaming and demanding ice cream, and I think I saw only one of them wearing a mask.

There were older people too–older than I would have expected for these two bands–older than me by a decade or more, some masked and some not.

Starting Monday, people in Illinois will be required to mask up again inside any indoor public space, regardless of vaccination status. Although I’ve been masking up inside ever since the delta variant made its ugly presence and its virulent spread known, I’m doubtful many people who have felt freed of their masks will dutifully don them again.

And, then, God help us, the mask wars will begin again, generating another round of virtual “crowd noise” on social media. And those who resist wearing masks based on some warped notion of “liberty” will continue to get sick and die. Innocent children, too young to be vaccinated yet, are filling up pediatric ICU wards with COVID, even in states with high vaccination rates, and doctors are warning that they’re running out of space to treat other sick and injured kids.

Last week I found an article by Arnold Schwarzenegger, published in The Atlantic, chiding mask-resisters for being selfish and failing to appreciate the historic sacrifices those who have gone before us made to preserve the American way of life. I never in a million years thought I would reference “Ahnold” for anything, much less an article like that one, but he made some good points.

And who could resist a title like “Don’t Be A Schmuck. Put On A Mask.”?

I had chosen a seat on the far aisle with about 12 feet between me and the rail holding back the non-pavilion-ticket-holders. But there was only one seat between me and the next two people in my row. Angelic Daughter had opted for a small gathering of friends instead of the concert with me. I was glad she did–she doesn’t like crowds and picks up on my anxieties immediately with her mysterious internal autistic “vibe” radar.

But in looking around, seeing how happy everyone was, how stoked to see their favorite band (a double bill of Vertical Horizon and Train, with genial partisans on both sides – VH for me) I decided to view the crowd as a resounding vote of confidence in the vaccines. After all, Lollapalooza happened in Chicago, and, probably due to a proof-of-vaccine or negative test requirement, didn’t become a superspreader event, although about 200 of more than 385,000 attendees did get sick.

So I took my mask off and sang along.

Vertical Horizon’s performance was great. Mike introduced us to that band, having discovered them online before they ever had a hit record. Once they did, we used to ride around in the car listening to their CD, Everything You Want.

They did songs from that record, but also one, Forever, I hadn’t heard before, from their next record. Read about (scroll down) and listen to that song, and I think you’ll understand why, after standing and singing along and whooping on the previous song, I found myself sitting down, crying.

I cried because I felt like the song was Mike’s way of joining me at the concert, saying he was glad I decided to go, and reminding me that we do, and will, see each other forever.

Regardless of my skittishness about the crowd, that made the evening more than worth it.

Forever.

Getting a little teary again, I remain,

Your already-ordered-new-cloth-masks-because-I-knew-this-was-coming, resigned, languishing but trying to look out into the world with love,

Ridiculouswoman







The Isolation Age: Masked Ingenuity

There had to be a way to remove that drawer. I WOULD NOT GIVE UP.

My brother the scientist mailed me two high quality masks, one for me and one for Angelic Daughter, back in March. Two regular surgical style masks, and two sealed in plastic coverings, that supposedly block pathogens on the inhale, as well as the exhale. Their labels say they expired in 2015, but hey, under the circumstances, who cares?

At first I was afraid of the mask police. I didn’t want to wear those very recognizable blue/green surgical masks, because I was afraid of being berated in public by someone who thought I should have donated the mask to medical workers. I felt guilty. Why should I have a mask to wear when doctors and nurses are DYING because they don’t have them?

But these weren’t the N95 masks that are supposed to protect medical workers in addition to patients. They were just ordinary medical masks, and after a few weeks I noticed everyone was wearing them and no one was giving anyone crap about them.

I started with the regular surgical mask, with an added t-shirt made mask on top, tied with bows (adorable!) tightly around my head, sealing the underlying surgical mask closer to my face.

Those masks are supposed to be disposed of after one  use, but I hung mine up after each wearing, to air out and (I hoped) rid itself of any nasties it picked up while I was out grocery shopping. But that flimsy thing had reached its limit, so I was going to break into that allegedy anti-viral mask.

I had tossed the envelope into the big bottom file drawer of the desk with the hutch that I splurged on, knowing the moment I saw it online that the green of it would match the willow green of my Bulgarian built kitchen cabinets. I just crammed it in the back, behind the files, and left it there, for a rainy day, when the mask police might back off and the ordinary mask wore out.

And then that envelope slipped behind the back of the drawer, and I couldn’t reach it.

DAMMIT!

OK, there HAS to be a way to remove these drawers. I WILL NOT GIVE  UP. Rubbery thingees on the side of the rails that the drawers run in and out on – ok, that must be something. Press down. YES! That seems to get one side past the rail stop thingee that keeps the drawer from falling out of the desk.

But WTF? It didn’t work on the other side.

I jury-rigged a number of tools that I thought would help me drag that envelope back up out of the void behind the drawer, most involving coat hangers and duct tape, but none of them worked.

DAMMIT!

OK, think, Annie. There HAS to be a way to remove that drawer. Back to rubbery bendy things in the rails that support the drawers.

AHA! One goes up, but the other goes DOWN! Oh, you diabolical bastards! You WILL NOT DEFEAT ME! I figgered it out! Press down on one side, up on the other, and VOILA! The drawer lock stop thingee is defeated – the drawer pulls out far enough for me to see behind it and reach my tiny child-sized hands back in there to grab the envelope and retrieve those high quality masks. HA! DID IT! MOMMY WINS AGAIN!

I wanted those masks because I had to go to the garden center to get the plants my scientist brother, my sister-in-law, Angelic Daughter and I traditionally plant on my parent’s graves on Memorial Day Weekend, and the fuchsia basket for Mike’s grave. And I was damned if I was going to go to a garden center on the Friday before Memorial Day when there was a good chance of encountering someone without a mask, or wearing a mask that didn’t cover their noses.

I got the geraniums and the sweet alyssum and some kind of blue impatiens that aren’t the right kind of bluey-purpley flower we usually get, but it was crowded and Angelic Daughter was waiting patiently in the car, so I had to get out of there.  We headed out to plant on Friday afternoon, on behalf of ourselves and my brothers and me on my parent’s grave. Angelic Daughter carefully placed the flag for Dad,

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and on the way  home, we hung a fuchsia like this by Mike’s grave:

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gravestone

I didn’t cry this time, like I usually do. That came today, and I’ll inflict my writing about it on you tomorrow. Until then, I remain,

Your never-give-up, no-retreat-baby-no-surrender (hey I’ll add that to my bouncy playlist stat, how could I forget that one?), looking forward to mask free shopping someday,

Ridiculouswoman.

Image by DoomSlayer from Pixabay