Essays

To wear a mask, or not to wear a mask? That is the #COVID-19 question.

To wear a mask, or not to wear a mask? That seems to be the battleground on which so many Americans appear to be ready to die during this COVID-19 crisis. Why are we battling each other? Are the heated arguments with the people we love really worth it? Is this pandemic making us all feel so helpless that we just need to feel like we’re doing something, even if all we can do is either try to enforce mask-wearing on others or try to preserve our right not to wear a mask?

Homemade masks for the pandemic
My mom and Aunt Becki have been cranking out masks like you wouldn’t believe the past several weeks to make sure everyone that wants one can have one. These are some my mom sent me. Strawberry Shortcake, yeah!

I mean, you should probably wear a mask. That’s what the doctors and scientists are telling us to do, and it seems legit to me. But what if it doesn’t seem legit to you? I mean, yeah, you did wake up an American citizen this morning, so you do have a right to do whatever you want to do, as long as you’re not infringing on someone else’s rights.

If you don’t want to wear a mask, I say don’t wear one. But be aware that there are places you will no longer be able to go. Remember, private business owners have a right to make rules regarding the use of their facilities. They can decide that anyone who enters must wear shoes, a shirt, and even a mask. (Though, I’ve yet to run across a grocery store that insists on pants, so I guess you could wear all the required garments and go naked on your bottom half to prove a point if you like. Just make sure you get it all on video for me, m-kay?)

You can choose not to wear a mask if you like, but you must keep in mind that if you are not wearing a mask, then you need to also choose not to try to enter business establishments that require the use of a mask to enter. You don’t have a right to harass the employees whose job it is to enforce the rules. They didn’t make these rules, and I bet there are plenty of other duties they would rather be performing than dealing with self-entitled assholes who, for whatever reason, believe they have the right to do whatever they please on someone else’s property. And I can pretty much guarantee that none of these employees are being paid well enough to put up with your bullshit.

Now, if you’re all-in on the mask wearing, there are a few things you need to keep in mind as well. The first thing being that not everyone is medically able to wear a mask. I choose to wear a mask myself, but with my asthma, that means I sometimes struggle to breathe under it. So, once in a while, when I’m in a store and am struggling to breathe, I check around me to make sure I’m at a safe distance from others and ensure that I am not breathing on anything that someone else might touch, and I *gasp* remove my mask. I’m not being an asshole about it. I just can’t breathe and literally must remove my mask and get a couple of gulps of fresh air before I can continue with my shopping. But I bet if there are any mask Nazis watching, they’re probably having an aneurism over it.

me wearing a honeybee design mask in quarantine
My Aunt Becki sent me this honeybee mask because everyone sends me honeybee stuff after they read my novel, Valley of the Bees.

So, dear mask Nazis (and I mean this in the nicest possible way,) you too must keep in mind that it is not your business to enforce mask wearing on others. It’s not your business to know the details of a stranger’s health issues, and it is unfriendly of you to stare daggers or shout at someone who isn’t wearing a mask. You don’t know for sure that the person you are sending hateful vibes to is an asshole rather than someone who has a legitimate medical reason for not wearing a mask. So, calm your blood pressure (you better check on that; it bet it hit the roof about three sentences ago,) take a deep breath, and tell yourself, “It’s not my business.”

Whose business is it do enforce mask-wearing? Again, it’s those poor underpaid employees at the front door who probably already asked this customer to put on a mask. If the customer isn’t an asshole, they probably calmly let the employee know that they have a medical reason for not wearing one. And if the employee was probably trained – which, let’s face it, there’s a good chance they weren’t, and that’s not their fault, but it is sadly their problem in these types of situations—then the employee probably just said okay and let the customer enter. Because, well, HIPAA. Or maybe not HIPAA since that mainly covers health information as it relates to the health insurance industry and medical facilities. Or something like that, I don’t know, but I have a master’s degree in business management, and that’s all I can remember about it from business school, but I do know enough about it to know that most of you are citing HIPAA incorrectly on Facebook.

Sobutanyway— I’m supposed to be working on my novel right now, not writing essays, so I can’t be bothered to look up the correct act at the moment, but you, too, have Google, my friend, so you can go look it up if you care. It might be the ADA rather than HIPAA, so that would be a good place to start.

What I do know is that you can’t hassle people about their medical conditions. Someone walks into a restaurant with a dog, you (you the employee, not you the rando standing in line waiting for a table) check to see if the dog is wearing a working dog vest. If it is, you go on about your business and allow the customer to enter just like you would allow any other customer to enter because that’s just how it works. You don’t ask the customer for paperwork proving the dog is a support animal because that would be harassment.

If the dog isn’t wearing a vest, you tell the customer that animals aren’t allowed in the restaurant. If the customer tells you the animal is a support animal, you say, “Okay, cool,” and let them enter just like any other customer because that, too, is how it works. You take their word for it and hope for the best because anything beyond that could be considered discrimination.

Same goes for masks. Now, you’re probably not going to run into very many people wearing vests stating that they have a medical reason to not wear a mask, but if you do, can you please send me a pic of that? So, with masks, you just let the person know they can’t enter the store without one. If the person isn’t an asshole, they tell you they are medically unable to wear a mask. If the employee is properly trained, they will say, “Okay, cool,” and allow the customer to enter.

So those are the responsibilities of the non-mask wearer and the door greeter, but what are your responsibilities? Well first, as with everyone else, don’t be an asshole. Okay, got that? Good.

Now, what are we going to do when we see someone in a store who isn’t wearing a mask? Number one, we’re going to protect our own blood pressure and not freak out. Okay? We’re going to assume that person isn’t being an asshole but instead has a medical reason not to wear a mask. If we’re worried that person might breathe on us and make us sick, then we are going to avoid them. We’re going to wash our hands regularly in case we come in contact with something that person breathed on. We’re going to soak our produce in diluted vinegar for five minutes when we get home because that’s what we should be doing anyway because E.coli.

In short, we are all going to do what we feel we need to do to keep ourselves safe, and we’re all going to let others do the same. Don’t want to wear a mask? Okay, don’t. But if you don’t, be aware of the consequences. Don’t want to be exposed to people without masks? Stay away from them without being an asshole about it. Now, that isn’t so hard, is it?

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