Who is that masked man?

April 19, 2020

Repurposed sleep mask

         Never in my writer’s wildest dream did I imagine I would wear a mask to the grocery store. Or that people would brag on Facebook about the design of their latest facial accessory.
            Back in February — seems like a century ago doesn’t it? — I attended the Conference on World Affairs in St. Petersburg, Fl. It’s a free event with panels of experts on various topics so hundreds of us packed the ballrooms at the University of South Florida Student Center. There wasn’t an empty seat and late arrivals stood along the walls or sat on the floor. I remember one young man sitting on the floor wearing a plain white mask over his mouth and nose. I wondered at the time: Is he sick or is he afraid someone here might be sick? What are masks for, to protect the public or the wearer?
            Two months later masks have become so ubiquitous that the question doesn’t matter: protecting the public is protecting the wearer.
            By mid-March, with events being canceled and quarantine discussed,  a quilter friend delved into her scrap bag and stitched a mask for me as well as everyone in her extended family.  When that one is in the laundry, I can fall back on an airline-handout sleep mask that works just as well to cover the mouth instead of the eyes. And some folks simply resort to a basic  “stick-em-up” bandana.
             A friend joked the other day that before long someone will start selling masks with political slogans. In 2020 the mask is more visible than a bumper sticker.