Remember When You Did Not Have to Wear a Mask?

“Do I really have to wear this?”  I asked aloud, at home, to anyone who was not already sick of my voice after two months.  “You know now they are saying that the mask actually increases the spread of coronavirus.”  I searched on my phone for where I read that, but instead there was a notice that the article had been taken down for violating the site’s terms of use.  They just don’t want us to know the truth.

I searched online for a mask, but the cost was $39.99 and would not arrive until November. So I tried on one of kids’ Halloween masks and went outside. I felt protected from coronavirus, but my face began to sweat and so I was able to trick-or-treat at only a few houses.

Then I tried a scarf that I found stuffed into a corner of the coat closet with assorted winter gloves and hats. I wrapped it around my face, and could not breathe. I searched the internet for the proper way to wrap a scarf around your face. The top result was an article that began telling me about the history of the scarf. The second result began telling me about why wearing a scarf was a good idea. The third also began telling me why wearing a scarf was a good idea. The fourth result showed the different ways that scarves are worn throughout the world. The fifth was another article that began telling me about the history of scarves, but with more typographical errors than the first.

Over a cup of coffee, my ninth of the day, I remembered where I had last seen a mask. Downstairs in the basement was something classified in my brain as “the paint stuff box.” Inside the box were paint rollers, and those plastic rolling pans, and a roll of blue painting tape, and those little squares of paint color samples with names like “forest glen” and “ocean wind” and “scarlet sunset” and…a mask!

Like Heinrich Schliemann after he unearthed the face of Agamemnon, I was overjoyed and considered sharing my discovery with several archaeological journals. The mask was bluish white, made of a hard felt and shaped like a cup, with two thin elastic bands in the back. It was quite uncomfortable to wear, and my glasses kept fogging up, and I had to wipe them repeatedly without touching my face, but otherwise the mask was perfect.

The first place I went with my mask was the supermarket. Every person there, customer and employee alike, was wearing a mask, and every mask had a different pattern. A mask with a flower pattern. A mask with a plaid pattern. A mask with a skull and crossbones pattern. I felt like I was at one of those parties that they call a masque, spelled like with Q-U-E at the end, and the masks are held up not by elastic around the back of the head, but with a little stick affixed to the side, and the mask covers just the area around the eyes instead of the nose and mouth.

And then I thought of something that would cheer up everyone. I could host a masque, covid-style!  Everyone would wear their masks by holding them to their faces with a stick attached to the side of the mask.  And instead of music, I would re-play Governor Cuomo’s daily news conference in an endless loop.  And the dancing would all be individual, with only four people on the dance floor at any one time.  And for food…well, I would tell everyone to eat before the party. 

I wrote the invitation in a broad, flowing script with a calligraphy pen, took a picture of it, and emailed the picture to all of my friends. Almost immediately I got a response. Someone I had never met in my life had posted the invitation on Facebook and added the comment “Nice to see people observing social distancing. Sheesh!” Within an hour my invitation had a million shares and was being attacked in the form of a meme so clever that I shared it myself.

I was subjected to a digital public shaming until I agreed to withdraw the invitation, issue an apology, and attend mandatory social distance training. The training was via Zoom video chat. At least I would not have to wear a mask.

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