The CDC seems to be recommending mask-wearing if/when we open schools again in the fall. I will wear a mask if that is the recommendation by scientists and health care workers. I will do whatever I can to keep my students and their families a little safer. I’m exploring scarf-mask fashion. I have a couple elastic headbands, and I can fold a scarf around my neck, pull the headband down around that, fold the scarf down over that again, and I have six or eight layers of cotton fabric that I can pull up over my nose. I just need to get it tucked in around my neck. I’ll make some fitted masks in different patterns, too, just to make it fun. Maybe I’ll try to make some with funny faces.
Don’t get me wrong. I hate wearing masks. I’m a claustrophobe, and that extends to extended mask-wearing. I don’t like the suffocating feel of a mask. I also hate that we can’t see each other’s full expressions when we’re wearing masks. I actually can’t quite imagine how I am going to teach a full day of classes through one of these things. I might have to start trying out hijab styles and see if I can make that work more comfortably. But if mask-wearing to teach is the recommendation for safety and mitigation, I will do it.
I don’t wear my mask when I am walking on our road. That’s a privilege I don’t take for granted. If I lived in a busy urban area where I couldn’t move at least six feet away from passers by, I would wear it. Maybe I would want even more distance, since I pant when I walk fast, and so do the joggers on city streets, and that spreads more droplets. If I was walking down a quiet city street, I might carry my mask with me in case I met an unavoidable situation, but I wouldn’t wear it unless I felt it was necessary to normalize mask-wearing in that context.
Any time I enter a building that is not my home, no matter how few people are there, I think I will wear a mask. When I was cleaning out my classroom last month, I wore my mask in the building, but I was so overheated while I was packing up books in my classroom that I took it off while it was only me or my family in the room. It was probably okay to do that, but really–I should have worn it. It sounds like there’s much less chance of contracting the virus from touching something that’s been breathed on by an infected person; still, it would have been respectful of me to try harder.
So no. I am not suggesting we be unreasonable. I just think that mask-wearing shouldn’t be a source of tantrums and uncivilized behavior. Perhaps the media is latching onto a few isolated cases of immature tantrum-throwers and most people are being mature and community-minded. However, I see people out in close public situations without masks when I make one of my rare forays off the farm. I see people minimizing and scorning mask-wearing on social media. I hear friends’ stories of walking out of places where they went for essentials because so few people were wearing masks and they didn’t feel safe.
Have you heard of the Shopping Cart Test? There is no law that says you must return your shopping cart to a designated place. You can leave your cart in the middle of the driving lane of a parking lot with little likelihood of a consequence. But the vast majority of people know the system and work within it to make it go more smoothly for everyone. Most people are Good Shopping Cart Citizens. Some people suggest that one’s shopping cart etiquette might be a good indicator of their sense of citizenship and civic-mindedness.
Even though it is a governor’s mandate to wear a mask in public places, it appears that there’s not real consequence if you don’t. Most of the stories I have heard suggest that people are not throwing non-mask-wearers out of stores. You can probably get away with it. It’s kind of like choosing to leave your shopping cart behind someone’s car.
If you are resisting the public mask-wearing guidelines, I encourage you to carefully read some CDC literature about how face masks slow the transmission of the disease. I encourage you to look at your motivations for wearing/not wearing. Think about the kind of community you want to live in. Imagine that you might possibly be an asymptomatic carrier and that elderly woman you whose space you’re encroaching on in the line at Lowe’s is your grandmother. Slip a little “do-unto-others” into your pocket. And put on your mask when you go into public places. Let’s be good citizens.
(If you refuse a mask because you just want to “stick it to the Man,” I think you’re woefully misdirecting your rebellion. If you really want to start a Revolution, let’s talk. I’ve got some good ideas. But I’ll only meet you if we can do it outdoors, and we both wear masks.)
Blue. Blue is always on my intrinsic gratitude list. Yesterday, a blue grosbeak sat on the feeder for a few minutes, his deep indigo drawing all surrounding color into himself. Then a bunting flashed by, and his feathers both absorbed and reflected the surrounding light. Moments later, a blue jay rowed through, showing off the lighter blue at the base of his tail feathers, and the way the black accents on his wings accentuate the deeper blue there. Bluebirds on the wire really do, as Thoreau said, “carry the sky” on their backs. Even on a grey and rainy day, the sky holds the blue that is behind the veil of rain.
If you ask me my favorite color, I would be quick to tell you that it is orange. Orange wakes me up and makes me happy. It encourages my fire and fierceness. But blue is always there. Always behind it all. With sudden flashings out when the birds fly by.
May we walk in Beauty!
“If you are planning for 1 year, plant rice.
If you are planning for 10 years, plant trees.
If you are planning for 100 years, teach your children.” —Proverb
“Life is wonderful and strange, and it’s also absolutely mundane and tiresome. It’s hilarious and it’s deadening. It’s a big, screwed-up morass of beauty and change and fear and all our lives we oscillate between awe and tedium. I think stories are the place to explore that inherent weirdness; that movement from the fantastic to the prosaic that is life.” —Anthony Doerr
“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” ―Marcel Proust
Audre Lorde: “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”
“Want what you already have.” —My mother says that my Great-Aunt Mary Ann used to say this.
“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” ―Paulo Coelho
“In a time of destruction, create something.” ―Maxine Hong Kingston
2 thoughts on “Being a Good Citizen”
Your daily blog posts, litanies of gratitude, and poetry are inspiring and comforting. Thank you for this.
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Thank you for that feedback! I’m glad to hear it. These are strange times. . .