Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Who was that masked man?
As we continue adjusting to the realities of life in the midst of a pandemic, it saddens me to see the shift from humanity coming together to fight a common enemy, to a divisiveness that seems to have come from the virus not killing as many people as feared in a timely manner. When COVID-19 hit the news earlier this year, I was among the many who encouraged people to, frankly, calm down. I likened it to the more common flu that kills tens of thousands of people each season, barely making a blip in mainstream media. Now, some 350,000 deaths later, with close to one third of those in the United States, I am not beyond admitting I was wrong.
Until I was able to understand the importance of slowing the spread by literally separating ourselves from each other, I was among those who felt infringed upon when businesses were forced to close and social events were canceled. As I learned more, it was obvious there was too little known about the transmission and severity of the virus to simply go about life as normal. Overwhelmed healthcare workers and first responders were reason enough for me to follow the restrictions set in place to hopefully slow the spread of the disease.
Now, weeks later, people are restless, and the economic toll will be felt for quite some time. I hear people complaining that the deadly virus did not make enough of an impact to call for the financial repercussions. To that I say, “lucky us.”
As restrictions ease and we begin to venture back out into the world, covering our mouth and nose continues to be a step we can take to mitigate transmission of this viral strain.
Bless my dear spouse, who has been working from home and other than to exercise, had only been to the grocery store once since the beginning of March. The shopping experience did not bode well for him. He said the mask/no mask issue made him uncomfortable and he was of the mindset to stay home rather than don a face cover to shop. But over the weekend, in a romantic gesture, he agreed to join me on an adventure to the local hardware store. He said he was not sure he would wear a mask, with what I interpret to be the mindset of, “This is America, after all, we are entitled and accustomed to a certain amount of personal freedom and autonomy.”
I threw in an “If you don’t wear one and somehow contract the virus that then kills me, you will never forgive yourself.” It was his choice. Though our “date” was short-lived — we left upon seeing the massive number of locals with the same idea —in the name of love, he had covered his face before joining me at the store entrance, but no amount of duct tape was worth waiting in those lines!
I think the best thing to do is to have a little fun with our masking. I make a point of letting people know how cute or funny I find their mask and play a game of “who wore it best” while getting groceries. I still recognize folks and enjoy witnessing the crinkle around their eyes when they smile. I see the creative possibilities as endless and have appreciated the many patterns and unique designs. Soon, we could have a mask for every mood. Clearly, this is an opportunity to make the proverbial lemonade!
To be clear, I do not love wearing masks. They are hot, and breathing can be difficult at times, but I do understand this to be an issue of public safety and so I comply
I liken wearing masks to wearing a seatbelt (though I hope the former is only a short-term inconvenience.) I was incensed when seatbelt laws passed. If I wanted to risk being thrown from my vehicle, I did not understand how it could be anyone’s business except mine. It was patiently explained to me that my decision could in fact affect others — including public safety officers. Eventually, I stopped resisting, and buckling up became second nature.
Over the years, I have railed against other incremental losses of personal freedoms. I remember the progression from people smoking freely, to being in the last “non-smoking” row in an airplane and sitting in smoking sections in restaurants, to present day, where smoking marijuana is more socially acceptable than smoking tobacco. Having never been a smoker, I did not really have “a dog in the fight” but I still felt bad for the ostracized, huddled in packs on the fire exit in freezing rain and cold. Those first years of banning cigarettes in public buildings left more people I knew with pneumonia than lung cancer. Again, I understood the laws were passed in the name of public safety.
So now, I wear a mask when shopping and in enclosed public places. I do not have to like it and may or may not agree with it, but I am all for doing the right thing. If covering my face while in public saves one person from contracting this deadly virus, it is a sacrifice I am happy to make. As the country reopens, the virus will spread, and more cases will be confirmed. This is one small act that can make a difference while enjoying the many freedoms that make this country great.
For the sake of the greater good, in this America I call home, I will wait for the walk sign before crossing the street, buckle up before putting it in drive, call a cab when I have been drinking and encourage my smoking friends to keep their butts away from the air that I breath, difficult as it already is under this tri-fold mask. I am simply happy to have a place to go!
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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