We all remember that awkward phase of wearing a mask in public for the first time last year, as the pandemic was forcing our hand and people slowly woke up to the reality of the danger of COVID-19. The first time I walked into a box store before they required masks on everyone I heard someone talking on their phone, irritated, saying “Everyone is wearing a mask” as he looked squarely at me. As you might have guessed, he wasn’t. Awkward.
Walking into stores and meeting people I knew before the pandemic for the first time when we were all masked was also a bit awkward. But then it became commonplace. You just wore the damned mask. Not for your own safety but for your regard for others. Those outliers who didn’t wear them were the odd ducks, not us.
Fast forward to now, and where do we stand? Pockets of this world are in a COVID crisis, other pockets are vaccinated and cases are declining. And now the CDC says you can go out without a mask on if you’re vaccinated. So what’s a vaccinated mask-wearer to do? I haven’t had a cold in over a year. Do I embrace the winds of chance and unmask?
I suppose I will, slowly at first, but more and more. But the mask thing got weird again, just as we were hitting our masked stride. Awkward.
I walked into a butcher shop to buy some overpriced meat. I mean 3x what it was a year ago overpriced, and half the people in there were masked and half were unmasked. I’m fully vaccinated and technically don’t have to wear it anymore if I don’t want to. But I’d already put it on to walk in the store – take it off now? I should think not.
I remembered in the moment why I’d put it on the first time last year. It’s not for me, it’s for those around me. And the people in that store don’t know if I’m vaccinated or not, they just know that I respected them enough to wear a mask for just a bit longer. Or they think I’m a masked nut job, but really, who cares what they think?
Tomorrow will sort itself out. There will be more awkward moments of mask uncertainty. For this, friends, is what the light at the end of the tunnel looks like.