The Dance of the Mask

Masks ready for my next foray into a public space

As I understand the directive in New York State, you are supposed to be masked (nose and mouth covered) if you are in public when you can’t keep the appropriate physical distance (six feet). Seems simple, but it isn’t.

Some of the complexity I understand – I am confused by what it means in some circumstances (more on that in a bit). Most situations are crystal clear so when people aren’t masked inside stores then they are being defiant or selfish or both. I’m happy to report that the vast majority of folks I see when I go to the Price Chopper are doing it right.

I must confess that I don’t like wearing a mask. I am someone who, under ordinary circumstances, sweats a lot. If I walk around the block, I will be perspiring pretty much regardless of the weather. It is just a fact of my life. My forehead and face get damp easily. Wearing a mask makes it worse. I also wear glasses – contact lenses are not an option for a variety of reasons. The combination of these factors means that I am often looking at the world through fogged up lenses. I need a defroster. Someone should invent glasses that have that feature. Maybe windshield wipers?

Despite this inconvenience, I wear the mask. It isn’t comfortable, it isn’t pleasant, but I wear it. I don’t want to put others or myself at risk.

Now to the grey areas and questions I have…

Sometimes I see people driving in their car with their masks on. I wonder why. If they have passengers that would explain it. But many times, they are alone. I don’t wear my mask if I am alone in my car or if I am riding with my husband. Am I missing something?

The other day I stopped to put gas in my car. There were four other people getting gas at the other pumps. No one had their mask on. I did. Though we were outside, I didn’t think we were distant enough to go without. Again, am I missing something? Why weren’t others wearing their masks?

I wonder about the etiquette of mask wearing when outside in public. I don’t live in a densely populated area. When I go out to walk in the neighborhood, I am able to keep an appropriate distance even if I see someone else. Should I still be wearing my mask under those circumstances? Given that it makes me even warmer and that my glasses fog up, I prefer not to, but I also want to do the right thing. For all I know, my neighbors are grumbling, “why isn’t she masked?” Though, generally, when I see other walkers or bike riders on my street they aren’t masked either. Maybe I can stop fretting about this one.

If I walk in a more heavily trafficked area, I will have my mask on or at the ready so that I can mask up if I approach other people. I will give others a wide berth on the sidewalk and appreciate when others do that for me. Here is my question in this scenario: if all parties are wearing masks, do you need to still to be six feet apart? Can you just walk by each other without taking a detour into the street or onto the grass?

I got an estimate for some work to be done on our deck. The guy came to the house, he rang the doorbell and he backed away to keep an appropriate distance. I opened the door and asked him to go around back so we could talk by the deck. He was wearing a mask when he rang the bell, but it only covered his mouth. I wore my mask when I went outside to meet him in the backyard. I saw him adjust his to cover his nose and it stayed that way for about two minutes before it slid down. He didn’t fix it. I was wondering if I should say something to him. This is another etiquette question. I don’t feel comfortable correcting people on their mask usage. In this case, we were outside, and I could back away when his mask slipped, so I let it go.

To be honest, though, I have never asked someone to adjust their mask, even when I have been in a store. It is all so fraught. I don’t want to be in a viral video where someone goes nuts in response to being called out for not abiding by the rules. I don’t envy store employees who have to enforce the policy. What a thankless, and possibly dangerous, job. It is hard to believe we have come to a point where someone would actually pull a gun (this happened in a Walmart, of course) when admonished to put on a mask. It’s craziness!

I find it very stressful thinking about it all the time and trying to figure out the right way to handle each situation. As I said before, sometimes it is totally clear – other than when I am in my own house, if I am indoors, I am masked. But there are all these other situations where I do this dance. I worry whether I am doing it right and then I worry whether others are. I don’t want to think about it anymore! Maybe it would be simpler to just wear it all the time.


7 thoughts on “The Dance of the Mask

  1. Loved your blog and that you are such a conscientious citizen. Wish all in Texas could follow the guidelines. Maybe if all the states, Florida etc we would really beat this pandemic

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Linda, I wonder about the answers to your comments every time I’m out in public. I, too, am plagued by my glasses fogging up. All we can do is follow the guidelines set forth by medical professionals and others in charge, and do our best to conform.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Something we are all concerned about – another good topic! My own experience with masks:
    I don’t wear one with my client as she is housebound and I see her M-F. I do mask up and distance when her family visits.
    Sometimes if I am traveling from store to post office to pharmacy I leave the mask on because it’s just easier than taking it off and putting it on again. This goes for the gas station too as young kids do the pumping.
    We had work done at the house in June. A friend recommended a handyman who came to assess the job. He got out of his truck with no mask. I came out of the house with one on and asked if he could wear one also. He complied. Because the job did not involve coming into the house and Ira was separated from him by the sliding doors, I didn’t insist on a mask to do the job. But it amazed me a tradesperson would not wear one automatically.
    Everywhere I go inside here people have masks, worn correctly. I feel as you do Linda, am not going to confront anyone about masking as people are on edge enough as it is.
    Masking isn’t fun, especially in a heat wave, but the idea that a person wouldn’t do something so simple to protect their fellow man distresses me to no end. Can’t help but think we would have a much different scenario with an intelligent, compassionate leader at the helm.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree – in this situation leadership is everything. We are truly suffering in so many ways from Trump’s unwillingness to lead. Delegating responsibility to each state, creating the mask controversy, delaying funding of testing….the list goes on and on. I have to stop myself from thinking about it or I get too upset.


  4. One of the shortcomings of our public health efforts has been a failure to adequately educate people on how to properly put on, take off and wear a facemask. I agree that if Trump was a human and we didn’t have to actually debate whether to wear them, we might be better able to get into how to wear them.
    I often provide some advice to patients who don’t keep the mask over the nose but it is also sometimes a losing proposition and time is better spent on other issues.
    We should be seeing public service ads demonstrating how to do this. It really shocks me that we don’t.
    Thank you.


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