Life behind a mask

Nov. 1, 2020 – Senior Connections
By Dale Kovar

On Saturday, July 25, 2020, the order went into effect that people in Minnesota are to wear masks in most indoor settings to reduce spread of Coronavirus.

A year ago when I would see images on tv of people in China wearing masks out on the streets, I never imagined that such scenes would ever become our reality.

We hear and read the extreme versions of both kinds – the gloom-and-doom about how the virus will kill us all vs. the conspiracy theories of how the most powerful people in world are using fear to intimidate and control everyone.

Because this is a global problem, it appears to be more than just dirty American politics.

There were a couple significant moments in which I formed my opinions of what to believe.

First was when the NCAA cancelled its March Madness tournament in spring. For all the universities, tv networks, sponsors, etc. to give up and walk away from all the money that event generates, I concluded that this virus situation must be rather serious.

A few months later, as there wasn’t an apparent end to the pandemic in sight, I heard a brief news item about Walmart developing drive-in theatres in some of its parking lots. That told me we’re in for a long haul yet. If the successful retail giant is making that investment, it is for what the future will be, not a short-term fix.

Back to masks:

As the order went into effect, knowing this was uncharted territory, I started keeping a diary of my mask experiences.

My general approach is to comply where I am expected to wear a mask, but not any other time.

On the first weekend, I did have a few short shopping stops and masked up as needed.

However, on Sunday afternoon I made a quick trip to town for one item needed for a recipe. I arrived at the grocery store and my shoulders sunk with a heavy sigh as I realized I didn’t have a mask along and everyone else did.

Since it was a single-item mission, I just went in, got my product, and got out as quick as I could. No one said a word.

On Monday, back to work for the first period of extended-time mask-wearing, I quickly realized several things.

Besides the fogging of my glasses, most noticeable was how dependent I am on licking my fingers to handle pieces of paper. They’re just so hard to move apart without any moisture.

After that was trying to lick envelopes, which of course, can’t be done with a mask in place.

I also learned to make sure a mask is put on with the correct side up – it is less uncomfortable that way.

After a few days, it still felt foolish to put a mask on going into every building, even with the knowledge that everyone else is supposed to as well.

I also learned to keep a couple masks in every vehicle so we would have them as needed, especially for any unplanned stops.

In early August, I was the substitute driver for one of our newspaper delivery routes. That involves taking bundles of papers to post offices and newsstand locations in several towns throughout our readership area.

For the newsstands, I carry a scissors to cut open the bundle as new papers are put in place of the old.

Along the way I realized that this year it is now acceptable for me to put on a mask and carry a weapon into a convenience store.

Next, at my eye doctor’s office, they taped the top of my mask to my nose to reduce the fogging so I could complete an eye exam. If you have to wear a mask for extended periods and have trouble with fogging glasses, that is a technique worth a try. (A co-worker suggested using a staple gun instead of tape.)

A few weeks into the order with masks now a habit, I inadvertently went into a convenience store without one. Again it felt quite uncomfortable to be non-compliant, but again, no one said anything.

Over time, I became more adept and putting a mask on as well as removing it. That includes learning not to aggressively rip it off unless I am sure it isn’t taking my glasses with it.

There may be one potential upside to mask-wearing beyond the stated medical reasons. When the first winter chill arrived in October, I noticed it wasn’t so bad with a mask on outside. It’s still too early to tell, but perhaps wearing a face mask outside just might be a permanent tool in living through our Minnesota winters.

I have no final revelations or conclusions.

It seems more likely at this point we will not return to what we would call normal. Hopefully some things will be like they were, but our world has changed and we will have to see what it has in store for us.

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