Not everyone feels this way, but I don’t see a face mask as a sign of fear. (I actually see it as a very nice gesture from the person who is wearing it.) Before the pandemic, however, I hadn’t always seen them that way at all. Exactly one week before we all learned about COVID, I was on a flight to Los Angeles, sitting next to a very nice man who was wearing a facemask. And to be completely honest, these were my thoughts as he sat there:
Is he really sick?
Is he extremely immunocompromised?
Should I change seats?
This is scaring me. Maybe I should see if I can change seats.
What the hell was wrong with us back then? Why did our minds go in that direction? The truth, I’m sure, was that he was wearing a mask because he wanted to, just like I was wearing a hat because I wanted to. I’m glad I’ve learned more about this in the last two years.
Morning In America
Lately, things have been getting much better. People are going back to offices. Stands are packed at sporting events, vacations are back on. COVID, for the most part, is no longer in the headlines. As my good friend Sanjay told me recently, it is morning in America. It’s great for businesses, it’s great for consumers, and it is so great for our kids, who probably were affected by this more deeply than any of us.
Perhaps the greatest sign that we are just about completely back to normal was the recent news lifting the mask mandate on public travel – buses, trains, and airplanes can no longer require this. It has been met with trepidation by some, celebration by others. It’s hard to argue the science and the stats: Hospitalizations and deaths are low, vaccines are reducing the severity, AND going back to normal has always been the goal.
It’s Not You, It’s Me
Even so, I want to admit something about myself (and I hope you are cool with this if you see me out and about.) I have discovered that even if COVID is wiped off the planet, there are some places where I am going to feel more comfortable moving forward wearing a mask. I will never judge anyone for not wearing a mask, as long as it’s not mandated, and I am hoping you won’t judge me if you see me wearing one, even if the government isn’t telling me to.
It’s not you, it’s me.
Here are six places where I used to not wear a mask, but probably will from now on; not because it’s required, but because it will personally make me feel better.
- Doctors Offices. DUH! We really didn’t figure this out before 2020? Sitting in a waiting room next to people who are there because they are sick, and just carrying on? This seems like the biggest no-brainer of all of them.
- Yardwork. This is the greatest discovery of COVID for me. I was just out leaf blowing my backyard and pulling weeds, and I got back inside without a single sneezing fit. Pollen is just awful right now, and will be for the next month. I feel like if I’d discovered the ol’ KN-95 years ago, I would have felt so much better during April and May.
- Elevators. I’m so sorry, again it’s not you. I got caught without a mask on an elevator last month in Florida, and Kim will back me up here. I held my breath for like 45 seconds. I’m sure the other people on the elevator thought I was the worst person ever. But I am now acutely aware of how close people are to me in elevators, and how little ventilation there is.
- Airplanes, for now. This one hurts. I REALLY want to be OK with it. You get sick of smelling your own breath, and the straps after a while hurt the back of your ears. However, something happened to me and Kim 3 years ago (pre-COVID) that scarred us. We were in London and had just had the greatest day ever. At midnight we started vomiting violently at the exact same time, so we assumed it was food poisoning. The next morning we had a long 7AM flight to JFK, and felt awful all the way home, including a couple trips to the bathroom if you know what I mean. When we got home we realized it wasn’t food poisoning, it was the Norovirus. We realized it when our kids got it. As soon as we realized that, we theorized, with horror, that we had given the Norovirus to all 300 people on that plane. I have had COVID and Norovirus. Neither were pleasant, but for me, Norovirus was much scarier. That kind of thing could innocently happen all the time, so I think for now, I’ll wear a mask on the plane, when I can. I swear it’s not you. It’s me.
- Public Restrooms. I don’t think anyone’s gonna make a stink about this one. They often don’t smell good, and the mask helps. Also ladies- I don’t know if this happens to you, but the stand-up urinals sometimes flush with so much violence I feel like there’s a Niagara Falls mist thing going on. No thank you.
- Theme Park Lines and TSA/Customs lines. Just the lines, not the rides. It’s a combo of the whole walking past 1,000 people over and over, and people around people who are from a gazillion different places. I’m not having any fun at these places anyway, I may as well wear a mask. During a trip to a theme park years ago a toddler puked at my feet. Her mom admitted they had been sick but they didn’t want to cancel their plans.
What do you think? Where else might you still wear a mask?