Gary Horton | It’s Very Simple: Just Wear the Darned Mask!

Gary Horton

Let’s get this much straight, right at the top: I hate wearing these darn masks. Hate ’em. I wear glasses and they fog up. They make breathing hard when doing anything strenuous. They’re hot and uncomfortable. And I hate re-smelling my last meal for the next three hours…

We have a strict mask policy at work. Anytime outside your own private office, all staff must don facemasks to traverse hallways, common space, and when taking in-person meetings. So, we wear them a lot. That’s the down side. On the plus side, we’re seeing some pretty imaginative designs and patterns. From the doggie face mask to paisley, to bank-robber style to the generic blue paper jobs, we’re seeing them all.

A friend sent me a new mask last week. It’s a “Stars and Stripes” job and is the most comfortable one I’ve got. It looks a lot like Pamala Andersen’s flag bikini bottom from 15 years ago – but that may be coincidence. But that’s what a lot of folks say. It’s good for lots of comments that always bring smiles. Not that you can actually see those smiles…

Meanwhile, there’s been small but increasing public outcry over government guidelines and orders mandating mask wearing. Something about “freedoms” and “liberty” and government overreach into our private lives. We’ve seen lower IQ-looking folks armed with assault rifles protesting at the Michigan state capital. Then there’s just the regular spoiled-baby crowd throwing the occasional “freedom march.” 

“The government is taking their freedom!” 

You want to talk losing freedom? How would these same folks like getting drafted into the Vietnam War? Or World War II? Or how about all the sacrifices and mandatory rationing during World War II? How about our Japanese internment camps from the same war? Or all the indignities and crimes forced on blacks and Native Americans through our history? This is government-forced “loss of freedom.” Asked to wear a mask in public? Cry baby, cry.

Spare me your tears of government intrusion over the absolutely horrifically terrible sacrifice of face masks. Good grief. These folks make us look like a nation of spoiled babies to the whole world. 

I read a meme today. “I will no longer be adhering to the lane lines while driving. It’s not my responsibility to keep other drivers safe. I thought this was a free country.” 

Much like the “guns everywhere nutcases” waving military-grade weapons in public – some are equating “freedom” with a Donald Trump-inspired narcissistic anti-social selfish take. Our shared common social responsibility takes a far back seat to “whatever it is I want for me.” Indeed, caring for the welfare of others by wearing a mask expands our freedom as we and our loved ones are spared illness, also.

I visited the supermarket yesterday. Everything was orderly and sane. The new checkout system with everyone in a long line being parsed into individual checkouts actually seemed to work quicker than the old way. No misallocated lines. And everyone had masks – both customers and employees…

Until I got to the meat counter. The woman behind the counter had her paper mask pulled down under her chin. I asked for some tuna and she grabbed it with gloved hands, all while speaking loudly to me, directly over the raw fish. Mask around her neck. The only employee in the store with no mask on and she’s talking into my fish… I was going to serve that sushi style but for sure it’s getting grilled tonight.

Which experience brought up the thought, “Why wouldn’t butchers and cooks and folks that handle fresh food always wear masks and gloves? If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you’d likely feel better for your next meal out with your food handler wearing PPE’s. Please, food people, wear your masks…

In my effort to finally drop from my currently plump 200 pounds down to the 175 I should be, most mornings I ride my bike on the SCV’s wonderful path system. I’ve found the paths are being used quite a bit more during this time of stay-at-home. Folks seem to either have more time for eating or more time for exercise…

It’s hard riding a bike wearing a mask because of the restriction on airflow. Current rules allow ditching a mask when exercising as long as you’re by yourself. Most of the paths are free space and quite open. But of course, you pass others and sometimes larger groups. When approaching, I’ll pull my mask up and it really does seem to make others appear more comfortable and reassured. Who wants a hot, sweaty biker huffing out spit molecules while peddling by? It’s a small inconvenience but indeed, most folks appreciate others wearing masks when passing by.

A Signal op/ed writer last week mocked the entire mask thing. “That the virus is microscopic and common facemasks offer no protection.” He missed the point and took the selfish view, noted above. Wearing a mask isn’t about protecting yourself. It’s about protecting your friends and neighbors and the folks in our community. It’s about protecting customers. It’s about being responsible in a civil society under duress. 

What all these masks do, is keep your spit to yourself. Keeps the majority of your breath droplets on your face instead of your friend’s face. Could save sickness. Maybe even save a death. Plainly, there’s a reason doctors and nurses have worn them for years…

It’s that simple. Wearing a mask protects others during an uncertain time. And, if it’s that big a deal to you, just opt out, stay home, and breath on your immediate loved ones until the coast is called all-clear. 

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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