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Masques

 

I have to confess I felt a little silly wearing a mask in the early days of the pandemic. I think most people did. Perhaps that's one reason why our president wouldn't wear one, although it's hard to imagine him ever having a reason for anything. That's enough politics for now.

 

Of course at the beginning there weren't any masks around. Any that various stores might have stocked were snapped up by health care workers. One or two old t-shirts were, thus, sacrificed to patterns that looked easy on paper but that my wife – quite an accomplished seamstress, by the way – said weren't exactly workable. Nevertheless, she persevered and managed to work one pattern into something wearable.

 

I don't know how effective it was, but at least I was acceptable in polite company. Eventually, commerce caught up to need and masks became widely available and cheap – probably shortly after I paid $30 for a packet of three (non-surgical).

 

"Mask on, Bonnie," I'd say before we went into a store. "Okay, Clyde," she'd answer. Nothing inspires self-consciousness more than a feeling of looking stupid. I had visions of myself as a kid playing cowboys with a bandana over my face, or as one of those faceless masked faces walking the hyper-polluted streets of Beijing.

 

Today, those of us of reasonable sanity have long gotten used to wearing a mask when we're out in the world. We don't view it as a violation of our freedom; to the contrary, I am freely choosing to protect myself and others from this not at all fake pandemic.

 

I suspect, too, that long after we are vaccinated and the virus has begun to fade away many people will continue to use masks. Good for them.

 

Quite honestly, though, I'm not sure when I'll feel comfortable going out without one. For as much as I've managed to stay free of Covid-19, I also note that it has been a very long time since I've had either the seasonal flu or even a cold. Of course that might also be due to my hands being washed raw or the fact of having about as much people contact this past year as a monk in a cloistered monastery.

 

However, I have managed to find a bit of humor in this whole situation.

 

I ran into Pete the Pissed and his family the other day at old Lenny's BP station and convenience store. Lenny's well into his nineties and still works a twelve-hour shift, and his shop is a place nearly everyone hits at least once a day.

 

It had been a while since I had seen Pete's wife, Maria the Maudlin, and even longer since I'd seen their daughter, Lily the Loquacious. Lily, they liked to say, was the product of a time when Maria was cheerful and Pete wasn't upset about anything. She's a cute, precocious kid in her early teens who can talk the hair off of your arm and braid it into your scalp. When Pete and Maria went into Lenny's, Lily stayed outside with me. She was looking at a copy of that day's newspaper.

 

"It's pretty funny, don't you think?" she said, holding the newspaper up to me.

 

"What's that?" I said.

 

"This picture," she said.

 

"A group of women," I said. "It says they're donating some scholarship money to a school."

 

"Pretty goofy," she said.

 

"Donating money?" I said.

 

"No," she said, "the picture. Those women – they're all wearing masks."

 

"That's the way things are these days," I said.

 

"Look," she began, "isn't the whole point of having your picture in the paper to gain some bit of recognition. You know, a little glory for a job well done."

 

"I suppose," I said. "Sure."

 

"But with masks on you can't even tell who they are," she said, "so it's kind of goofy."

 

"Oh," I said.

 

"Can you imagine seeing a nice picture of a group of notable Muslim women being honored for some project – all dressed in the full burka?" she said.

 

"That would be odd," I said.

 

Like so many kids, they're often the funniest when they're the most serious.

 

G.K. Wuori © 2021

Photoillustration by the author