Support your local businesses: Wear a mask

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In the pro-mask versus anti-mask war, I stand somewhere in the middle. In late March, when almost no one was wearing a mask in public, I went out a couple times wearing one and got funny looks from other shoppers, who assumed I must be sick. Now you’re likely to get a dirty look if you’re not wearing one.

People can hardly be blamed for being skeptical of their value and resentful about being made to wear one. The guidance from the beginning from the CDC and other so-called experts has been, as it has with so many other things surrounding this pandemic, extremely inconsistent and contradictory.

Guidance like: “In order to get infected, someone has to cough or sneeze directly on your face, or you have to touch a contaminated surface and then touch your face.”

And this: “If you don’t have dry cough, fever, shortness of breath, or a combination of all three, it’s not coronavirus.”

Add those words of wisdom to the ash heap of misinformation surrounding this pandemic.

Then there is the inconsistent use and non-use of masks by politicians and other supposed leaders.

I personally feel their health benefits are minimal, especially outdoors. Added to the fact that my sinuses are continually congested and on a given day are 50 percent clear at best, I hate the damn things as much as anyone. Then there’s the fact that I’m constantly having to adjust it because it always seems loose.

Once states and businesses started getting more authoritarian about them, I empathized with the mask-resisters. It should be my choice, not some fiat.

But lately, as more things begin to open up, I’ve started to see them in a new way: as a civic duty.

Judging by the numbers of people wearing masks in public even in Wisconsin, which doesn’t mandate them, and even in businesses that don’t require them of customers, it seems that given the choice between staying secluded in their homes maskless and going out into the world and seeing other people while masked, most people choose the latter. Because they, like me, have recognized that it may be the price we have to pay to get—and keep— some semblance of our lives back.

Maintaining six feet of distance from others is not always possible in public situations. If most people refuse to wear or stop wearing masks, then many of the state restrictions that we’ve waited so long to be lifted may be imposed on us again, and that will be the final nail in the coffin for many businesses, large, medium and small. Not to mention the final blow to our sanity as we are once again barred from parks, jogging paths, beaches, and any other place where strangers gather.

If it’s what I have to do so businesses can survive and people can keep their jobs, the inconvenience and discomfort to me is a small price to pay. It’s the way that I can play my little part in supporting local commerce and jobs, even if I’m unconvinced that it’s keeping me or anyone else safer.

Once I realized that, then I didn’t mind the confinement of the mask as much. You probably won’t either.

So I’ll wear a mask when I go to a store, a hair salon, a farmers market, a movie theater.  But I also expect the people working in those places to do the same, which isn’t always the case. They should set the example for their customers.

And as for the “mask police,” both literal and self-appointed: Please back off. If someone is resistant to wearing a mask, it will only make them more so if they feel they are being bullied or harassed into it. It’s better to lead by example than by intimidation. I was in several stores the other day, where it was about 60-40 masked versus unmasked, and no one was hassling or guilting anyone else. People may have breathing and other medical issues that we don’t know about. Don’t assume anything.

If nothing else works for you, then just think of wearing a mask as an excuse not to shave, not to put on makeup, not to have to clip those pesky nose hairs or chin hairs. Or put on a black mask and pretend you’re channeling Michael Jackson.

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