This Friday, April 9, Gov. Kay Ivey’s statewide mask mandate will end. I am not sure if that is at the stroke of midnight on Thursday or Friday night, but in any case, by Saturday, no face covering will be required, at least by the state of Alabama.
There will certainly be businesses that will still require them and individuals who will feel more comfortable continuing to wear them, as is their right, but as far as our MeeMaw is concerned, we are done.
It is so strange to think back over the past year and this virus. And of all the different things we had to do or not do — from staying and working from home to virtual learning with our kids to becoming an expert in cooking red beans and rice and/or who was doing local curbside pickup — it has been a very strange time.
But I will say, even before it was officially mandated by the state, putting a mask on for the first time was one of the moments that really made the pandemic seem real.
I remember going to the grocery store for the first time in one and just feeling so awkward. Am I wearing this right? Am I supposed to try to talk to people through this thing? Remember people can’t see you smile at them, so nod or wave. Remember to take it off once you get in your car so you don’t look like one of those weirdos who ride around alone but fully masked.
Of course, like many things, what seems strange at first, over time becomes routine. And now, it will probably feel a bit odd to go into the store for the first time without one. (I think that will still be a while, as many businesses will keep their own mandates in place, no matter what the state says.)
One day, scientists will be able to figure all of this out — why when some people caught this virus, they were completely asymptomatic, while others were hospitalized or died. And all of the varying degrees of illness in between.
And they will figure out just how big of a role mask-wearing played in all of this.
But one thing’s for sure, it certainly didn’t hurt.
Unfortunately, like most things these days, mask-wearing became politicized. And the fringies on both sides do what fringies do — they acted unreasonably and made everything worse and everyone crazier. There were folks on the right who flat out refused to wear them at all and folks on the left who probably wore them in the shower so they could virtue signal to Mr. Bubble.
But most of us just did our best to keep ourselves and loved ones safe.
And now that vaccine options are readily available and open to everyone 16 and up, this nightmare should soon be over.
And though, like everyone else, I am beyond ready to get back to “normal” life, there will be a few things I must admit I will miss about mask-wearing.
The most obvious and glorious benefit of it — that has nothing to do with virus transmission prevention — is the ability to shop while looking like complete and total runover dogsh*t.
Roll out of bed and realize you need to grab some coffee or pancake mix but you look like hell? Well, no problem, just put on the biggest mask you own or even opt for the neck gaiter, add a ballcap, and you might as well be shopping while invisible. Don’t even bother brushing your teeth, and even if you stink, it doesn’t matter because no one knows “for sure” it’s you. Of course, some of your “friends” you intentionally walked by without acknowledging may ask you if you ignored them in the store this morning, but you will just do like Shaggy and say, “It wasn’t me.”
The masks also eliminated all those forced, awkward grocery store conversations. I am not talking about actual friends you see in the grocery store, who you want to chat with. But the people you kind of know but don’t really want to make small talk with (and they probably feel the same way) but you somehow end up in the same line with them so you have to. And, of course, the person in front of both of you who is checking out is arguing about BOGO prices or coupons and then you are forced to come up with even more topics to talk about with this acquaintance from 15 years ago who is standing behind you with hamburger meat and a Bota Box.
How’s John doing? (Wasn’t that the name of the guy we both knew? Or was it Justin?)
I think I heard he died, says person who is also trying to remember how he knows you and John/Justin.
How? (You inquire but don’t really care.)
I’m not really sure, says hamburger man.
That’s terrible, you say. How’s your wife? (Because you can’t remember her name but remember going to their cash bar wedding for some reason.)
Oh, we divorced six years ago, he says, hoping and praying he can just pay for his damn meat and box wine and go.
I’m sorry to hear that. Well, it was good to see you, you say as you turn around and try to will the cashier to honor the person’s MF-in coupon so you don’t have to talk to Divorced Hamburger Meat Wino Man anymore either.
With masks, these interactions have been completely eliminated and replaced with a simple nod of recognition and a point to the mask. How can you possibly talk about people you barely remember with people you hardly know through a mask? How barbaric! Irresponsible even!
There are almost always silver linings to everything, even a pandemic. And though I have enjoyed these few “perks” that have come with mask-wearing during COVID-19, I will gladly brush my hair and teeth before shopping and have these strange interactions again if it means this is all over.
And, my friends, we are very close.
So, enjoy your last days of shopping while filthy. They are thankfully numbered.
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