A Year of Masking

 It’s been a little over a year since Governor Cuomo issued an executive order requiring people to wear masks when in public. I remember the week or two leading up to that order, as it was pretty clear that masks were coming, and soon. People were saying things like “I hope we don’t all have to wear masks!”, but I was thinking, It’s just a matter of time. And sure enough, it was.

And now, a year later, we’re still wearing them…or at least, we should be wearing them. I’ve still got mine:

Masked

Yes, I took that picture outside, just [day]. And yes, I still wear mine outside…depending on where I am. More on that later.

Like many people, it took me a while to figure out the whole mask thing. The first mask I had was the “tissue paper” variety of disposable surgical mask, which left me feeling like I was struggling for oxygen and unable to see because just two months earlier I had returned to wearing glasses most of the time. It didn’t take me all that long to figure out how to shape the little wire thing to my nose, thus cutting the glasses-fogging down significantly. I also got accustomed to breathing through the mask pretty quickly; my brain was pretty fast in getting over the Oh shit I can’t breathe all my exhaled CO2 isn’t going anywhere and I’m going to faint for lack of oxygen OH NOES!!! thing. Yeah, that was complete nonsense that my brain was cooking up, as demonstrated by people all over the interwebs posting photos of their blood-O2 readings after hours of mask-wearing.

(I did buy an blood-O2 device, which I was at one point using daily to make sure I wasn’t heading into trouble. I never was; I have received exactly three readings less than 97%, and each of those became a 97 or better when I took it off my finger, waited ten seconds, and re-tested.)

A week or so later, my company provided white cotton masks for all of us to wear. This wasn’t entirely an improvement, as these didn’t have the wire in the nose and it wasn’t entirely clear which end was up. I didn’t much care for this one, as it was thicker and made my mouth a bit hotter and the glasses problem got worse with this one.

This may make my RBF worse. #Mask

For me, the main comfort issue was not with breathing or the warmth around my mouth and nose, which are things I actually got used to. The serious source of discomfort came from the ear loops. I don’t know how many other people had the same problem, but the flesh behind my ears would start to ache after an hour of wearing the mask, and after several hours, the pain was bad. I am lucky at my workplace in that I have a small workroom that’s all mine, into which I can go and where only one person is allowed at any time, due to social distancing guidelines. Thus I could get a “mask break” when I needed one, but long-term, this kind of mask wasn’t the answer. I did see gadgets on the market where you could tighten the loops to fasten around a strap that then tensioned against the back of the neck, thus relieving the ear issue…but instead I bought some hand-made masks from a guy I know who just happens to be an artisanal denim maker who makes, among other things, designer bib overalls.

Here I am with his mask and a pair of his overalls:

At the Farmers Market! Rocking the @zacebrand overalls AND mask! #ootd #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #zacedenim #hickorystripe #denimoveralls #overallsarelife

Not only was I able to purchase from an artisan directly, but these are very well-made, with good thick layers of cotton, an opening for a filter, and the brass nosepiece that folds to the nose easily and holds its shape. Best of all, though, is that the elastic loops go around the head and tighten via a spring clip. At last I had masking comfort and safety!

If you’re interested, those masks are still available, I believe! His current site is https://buttonbandana.com/; his usual web address, ZaceDenim.com, currently points to the Button Bandana site.

As the pandemic dragged on, I did buy another trio of masks, these from Proper Cloth. These also come with around-the-head loops, a nose-bridge stiffening wire, an internal filter and are made with thick-weave cotton. And if you want color choices, these are good, too. (I got navy blue.)

Out and about #winter #WinterInThe716 #ootd #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #vintage #lee #leeoveralls #hickorystripe #denimoveralls #overallsarelife #vintageoveralls #sweatersandoveralls #scarf

When I bought my masks, I bought three each time, so I still have one of each that I haven’t even worn yet. This seemed wise to me, given that it does not seem that masking is going to go away completely in the foreseeable future.

So that’s the mechanics of my mask-wearing. But how do I feel about masks in general?

Meh, I’m fine with them.

An awful lot of people have seized on mandated mask-wearing as the kind of tyrannical government overreach that fuels the fevered nightmares of all libertarians, which is in all honesty an over-the-top reaction that makes me either laugh or shake my head every time I encounter it. Masks are a pretty simple thing to do, but a whole damn lot of folks in this country hate them and go out of their way to make their feelings plain. I’ve seen people wearing MAGA masks, and masks reading “Worn by FORCE not FEAR!!!” (as if fear is the motivation, as opposed to thinking collectively about being a member of a functioning society). Once I was in a store and saw a woman wearing a mask that was imprinted: “THIS MASK IS USELESS!!!” That’s a big claim for the anti-mask folks, that mask-wearing is utterly useless and serves no purpose whatsoever. I’ve heard a lot of very bizarre claims, like “How can masks protect you from COVID if you can still smell a fart!” Thus demonstrating the speaker’s complete ignorance of the size difference in gas molecules and respiratory droplets. Or the goofy claims about how masks make your exhaled CO2 cloud around your mouth, stealing your oxygen, which I’ve already noted as disproved.

And then there are people who note the stubborn persistence of this pandemic, usually with a simple and pithy “I thought you said masks work!” Thus proving that they don’t understand that nobody ever said that masks were a simple cure-all. So it goes.

Oh, and the woman mentioned above with the “THIS MASK IS USELESS!!!” mask? I was deeply tempted to walk up to her and say, “You’re right, your mask IS useless, since you’re not wearing it over your nose, you idiot.” I did not do this, but damn, was I tempted.

I have not found mask-wearing in any way an impediment to my life or my job, and I do work that is occasionally fairly strenuous. In truth, sometimes I forget that I’m actually wearing the thing! More than once I’ve gone to sip from the mug of coffee in my hand, only to remember that I’ve got a mask on and I need to wait. Some commenters, usually right-wingers, will gripe about seeing people wearing masks in their car when they are driving by themselves; my response is that I do this because I’m usually combining multiple errands and multiple stops into the same trip, and I am simply not bothered enough by the mask to put it on, take it off, put it on, take it off, lather rinse repeat, all day until I’m done.

I also tire of the performative mask-removers. These are the people who will, upon exiting the store or business in which they’ve had to wear a mask to enter, will rip it from their faces and take in a huge breath of air, as if they’re breaking the surface of the water after a deep dive to the limits of their lung capacity. Cut the shit, folks. You’re not fooling anybody. Ditto the “I have mah rights!” crowd who insist that some tortured reading of the Constitution gives them the right to not wear a mask in a private business.

The newest wrinkle on mask-wearing, now that the vaccinations are proceeding nicely across the country*, is to insist that now we should all be able to stop wearing masks at least outdoors, and they should be a lot less necessary indoors. And yet, you can see by the topmost photo, I’m still wearing my mask outdoors. Why? Well, I don’t always wear a mask outdoors. When I take The Dee-oh-gee(s) for walks, either around the neighborhood or at a local park, I am very much still social distancing, and in nearly all such cases I am not encountering anyone at all other than to wave hello from the other side of the street.

However, when we venture into, say, the Village of Hamburg for our weekly trip to the local bakery we like, I’m putting the mask on. It’s a village, and I run into a lot more people there for fifteen minutes than I do in an hour of walking in the woods. Even though we’re outside and the outside breezes should disperse respiratory droplets pretty quickly, I’m not comfortable risking that…even though I’m vaccinated. The vaccines we have are amazing science, but all the science isn’t in yet, and we don’t know enough about whether fully-vaccinated people** can carry the COVID virus in sufficient supply as to pose a threat to non-vaccinated individuals. I choose not to risk it.

I choose to think collectively. I have thoughts on the recent history of America’s ability to think collectively, but I’ll save them for another time; suffice it to say that right now, the American addiction to “rugged individualism” is starting to strongly appear to me like the thing that’s going to ultimately doom this country to receding into the historical fog. But that’s for another time.

And you know what else is nice? When I’m wearing a mask, if you irritate me, you’re not going to be able to read my lips when I mutter, “F*** you!” And it’s over a year since the last time some self-appointed Enforcer Of Required Happiness told me to smile, so that‘s something.

So yeah, I’m gonna keep wearing my mask. And if that bothers you, well, that’s your problem, not mine.

(swiped from someone on Facebook; actual credit unknown)

* If you haven’t had your vaccine, and you don’t have a doctor telling you not to get your vaccine for whatever reason, go get your damned vaccine. Anti-vax preciousness is absurd and indefensible.

** I reached the “fully vaccinated” threshold of two weeks past my second dose of the Moderna vaccine over a week ago.

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