masks

To Mask or Not to Mask

Greetings all from the Wild West, a lawless frontier where you can take your own life in your hands by walking into your local saloon or general store. 

Every day, I meet perfect strangers on the street. Our eyes squint as our hands hover near our waist, waiting for the other to flinch before we pull out our instrument of death.

I like in California. The weapon at my waist is the mask in my pocket.

It sounds like we’re behind the curve when it comes to the reopening. But in many ways that makes it worse. 

In California, we like to “follow the science” whenever the science agrees with our preconceived notions. For instance, the science said that masks helped prevent the spread of disease, so we wore masks inside. Science also told us that the virus doesn’t spread outdoors, so we closed the beaches and parks. Oh, and the outdoor dining, which forced everyone indoors where they were more likely to catch said virus. See? SCIENCE!

Well, the science told us about three months ago that vaccinated people are safe. One might even call them “vaccinated.” But because there was no way to know who was vaccinated or not, and because our Herr Kommandant Governor REALLY likes his emergency powers, we decided it was best to make everyone wear masks. For, I guess, solidarity with the people who don’t give a shit about the virus.

Our Herr Kommandant graciously gave us a random date back in early April at which point COVID would be over and the masks could come off. Because SCIENCE! And when the CDC made the same ruling a month or so before Herr Kommandant’s random dart-throw of a date, well, we better not listen to those crazy health officials. June 15 was the date he picked out of his ass and June 15 was the date we could take our masks off. Not a moment before! SCIENCE!

I’m pretty sure dude would’ve extended the date even further if he wasn’t already facing a recall. In the weeks leading up to his Magic Day, we heard scarce information from the government. The only thing that stopped his reneging and moving the goalposts for the seventy-fifth time in the past year, is that fact that minor establishments like Disneyland and the five major league baseball teams in California had taken him at his word and started selling tickets for full-capacity after June 15. And if I was a voter who was leaning toward voting no on Newsom’s recall, but then Disneyland called me up to tell me that my June 16 ticket was no longer valid, I might be changing my vote. Psychology is SCIENCE, right?

Herr Kommandant did say that, although he was begrudgingly sticking by his earlier promise about June 15, he was at the very least going to hold onto his emergency power until, I shit you not, the virus is eradicated. Eradicated as in completely extinct. As in, no new cases, presumably in California but possibly the world. You know, just like all those other viruses we’ve completely removed from the human condition. Like… um… hold on a second….

When June 15 arrived, we were given very little guidance as to how to proceed. Employees, we were told, still had to wear masks. Something about Herr Kommandant couldn’t control Cal-OSHA, he could only make suggestions. Except when he was implementing the stay-at-home order in the first place. Somehow his emergency powers only allow him to make things more restrictive, not less restrictive. He can make new laws but not do away with old ones? Even if they were implemented via emergency powers in the first place? Sounds like some shitty emergency powers. I assume he keeps his primae noctis rights.

So most of the places I’ve frequented the last week, the employees are still masked up. The customers have been a crapshoot. It’s about what you’d expect. Nobody in line at the donut shop wore a mask. Maybe they’re not buying donuts for their health? At the Whole Foods, everyone still wore them. The comic book store was an anomaly, with almost all the customers wearing masks but a few maskless employees. The customers are adults buying comics, so probably aren’t the best with change, but they’re probably conspiracy theorists who won’t rat out the employees to the government. 

Most of the places frequented by the masses, grocery stores and sandwich shops and the like, seem to be split right down the 50/50 range. It’s here where I go back and forth, where I find myself grabbing for the mask in my pocket out of courtesy to the other customer, even though I’ve already been there for five minutes or more. What makes the exchange even more awkward is that I’m relatively certain that masked person is vaccinated, as am I. So each of us are masking up to signal to the other person that we don’t need masks.

SCIENCE!

I know a few weeks ago I said I wouldn’t wear masks longer than I needed to. The unvaccinated aren’t masking up, why should I? Especially considering the masks are best at preventing my globules from getting out, not from stopping the globules already floating around in the air from coming into my mouth. They’re condoms, not diaphragms. Since I’m vaccinated, my globules are great (too bad I’m not still single, that would be a great pick-up line). There’ve been a ton of studies on if we’re acting as conduits from unvaccinated to unvaccinated and it turns out, in over 99% of scenarios, we are not.

So why am I now playing along with the mask wearing? I mean, aside from the fact that now that it’s voluntary, I can damned well do what I please? Part of it is the whole social contract thing. I know we are a dying bunch, but some of us still believe you shouldn’t be a dick to other people just for the sake of being a dick. So fine, other person in the store, if you’re still afraid of people not wearing masks, then I don’t mind a couple minutes of discomfort. I mean, y’all might want to get over that shit and look up on the research, because they’re really unnecessary if you’re vaccinated. When the school year starts up again and I have to wear a mask eight hours a day (in a high school where most of the students will be vaccinated, because SCIENCE!), those extra five minutes of face freedom are mine, not yours!

And if you’re not vaccinated, then fuck you. The social contract means nothing to you. You’re not smarter than the rest of us, you’re just a dick. Quit saying government regulations ruin everything then whine that the government didn’t regulate the vaccine enough. Isn’t it the anti-vaxxers who usually say to trust the free market? Well guess what, Pfizer and Moderna are private companies. Let the free market work its magic.  Although I’ve been vaccinated for close to three months now and I STILL don’t have 5G coverage.

The main reason I’m still carrying a mask with me is because I have a 7-year old daughter. Whereas the douchebag Anti-Vaxxer at the Starbucks can lie and say he’s vaccinated, I don’t think I can pull that with her. And if I’m anxious to avoid being a dick in social settings, the top of that list would be making my 7-year-old wear a mask while I go maskless. 

I go back and forth on whether or not I should make her mask up. On the one hand, kids aren’t likely to catch it and, if they are, they aren’t likely to get symptoms. But at the same time, the law says unvaccinated people must wear masks. I’m not opposed to ignoring unjust laws, but I also don’t want to encourage a future teenager to ignore missives from authority figures. Sometimes it’s tough to be skeptical of authority but still a believe that most rules should be followed. I’m either lawful neutral or neutral good. Or maybe I’m just a dick. What alignment covers that?

We’re going to Disneyland in a few weeks. They still require masks for the unvaccinated, which should be fifty percent of their population. Again, do I want to spend a whole day reminding Daughter that she has to keep that mask tight while I’m off licking doorknobs? I don’t know if she’s comfortable calling bullshit yet, but if she chose that as her first usage, I wouldn’t fault her.

Don’t worry, I’ll blog post-Disney. I’m sure it’ll be enlightening.

So that’s where I’m now at. Do I mildly inconvenience myself to put others at ease or do I follow the SCIENCE! and force them to do the same? Do I model how my daughter should act or do I teach her “Different Rules for Different People”? 

To put it simple: To mask or not to mask, that is the question.

And dammit, where is my 5G coverage and check from Bill Gates?

Get Yer Shots, Numbnuts!

My family did something really weird last weekend

We baked some brownies and cookies, packed some drinks into a cooler, and went over to a friend’s house for a pot luck barbecue.

And then right as the wienies were roasted, the cervezas and margaritas flowing, all of a sudden….

Nothing happened. That’s it. End of story. Weird, right?

Did I mention we weren’t wearing masks?

Well, Daughter wore a mask, as did all of the other children. But the adults, all eight of whom are vaccinated, had nary a face covering in sight.

Or at least none doing their face covering bit. A couple of us had gaiters around our necks, just in case, because thirteen months is long enough to create habits. Even if the CDC kinda, sorta, maybe said it was a little bit okay, but not really? Because they can’t come right out and say that eight people, all of whom cannot catch a certain virus, might not still pass said virus amongst themselves.

For the last six months, every single message has been to go out and get vaccinated as quickly as possible so that we can… keep quarantining and masking? Bogus! I let Bill Gates chip me and I’m still on shitty-ass 4G.

I got my vaccine on the early side, considering I’m a teacher. When I got my first vaccine, I thought I was an outlier, but my purgatory of the only vaccinated amongst a sea of Typhoid Marys didn’t last long. They wanted me to post a selfie touting that I got jabbed, but considering so many people I knew were upset at the pace of shots and the amorphous criteria for who gets the vaccination, I didn’t want to post of “Ha ha, suckers! No COVID for me!”

After all, not everyone can get onto the French Laundry reservation list.

Fortunately, the wave of “put your name on a waiting list and wait for a call” was on the verge of becoming common knowledge. By the time I got my second shot, three weeks later because I’m a Pfizer (the 2021 version of asking someone their sign), most of the people I knew already had their first shot. The flood came fast and now we’ve already gotten to the point where the supply of the vaccines are outpacing the demand.

Which is why we’re still wearing masks, I guess?

At first I still wore masks because I was in the minority. Solidarity, yo!

But if we’re not to the point where a majority of Americans are vaccinated, we will be soon, so why the hell are we wearing masks outside? Or inside, for that matter?

Three vaccinated people with masks and one unvaccinated person without a mask walk into a bar. And… nothing. That’s the joke of a world we live in. 

Most of the data says we probably don’t need to be wearing them outside in the first place. The virus primarily transmits through water droplets, and the existence of wind and fresh air outside inhibit my globules from getting to you. But still, it’s comforting to see other people with masks, because it means they’re taking it seriously. Wearing them outside has always bordered on virtue signaling, so there’s little reason to take them off now, right? Except for maybe some ear fatigue.

Up to this point, it was to save the unvaccinated, as it was a total crapshoot on if you had access to the vaccine. But now we need to protect the unvaccinated because… they don’t give a shit?

And before I tailspin into some vitriol, let me get all my disclaimers and caveats out of the way. I know kids can’t get vaccinated. Trust me, I’m heading to school every day with the understanding that, even vaccinated, I can bring the virus home with me. And with every adult I know being vaccinated, the only one who’s likely to be hurt by my district’s decision is my daughter. Not the greatest feeling.

But kids seem to be safer from this particular virus. They can carry it from parent to teacher to other parent pretty easily, but they don’t get the symptoms themselves. At least until they’re 12 years old. But right now 16 is the cutoff for vaccines, so there’s a slew of 12 to 15 year olds who are in a precarious position. And considering I teach mostly sophomores, it makes it easier for me to keep my mask on during the school day, even if it sometimes feels like overkill. I’m supposed to be modeling “good citizen” for my students, but aren’t I also supposed to be modeling research and causal relationships? My district sent out a “reminder” that we need to wear our masks whenever we’re on campus, even if we’re outside. So great, in a school where we teach science and government, we want to model ignoring the CDC.

And fine, you want more caveats? I understand the variant problem. My student gives it to me, who is immune, I pass it to Daughter, who it doesn’t affect. She gives it to her teacher, who is immune, and said teacher gives it to another student with an unvaccinated parent. That’s five chances for the virus to mutate, five attempts the virus gets at figuring out how to end-run around the vaccine. Allegedly the South African variant is running roughshod through the Pfizer vaccine, which is the one I got. So that’s great.

Which I guess is why the CDC is telling us to keep wearing masks indoors, even if everyone in the room is vaccinated. They probably recommend using condoms after a vasectomy, too. But unlike the latter example, people are actually listening to the former.

Their new chart is odd for a number of reasons. It’s got two elements, a green, yellow, red coloring system to denote relative safety, as well as a yes/no component about wearing masks. But there’s an obvious lack of continuity between the two. A whole bunch of “safe” green also requires masks, whereas some “less safe” yellows don’t require one. 

If you’re vaccinated, everything is in the green. You’re safe. But still every single activity inside tells you to wear a mask. So when I and all the other vaccinated teachers in my department have lunch together, it’s considered “safe,” but we should wear a mask. In fact, it’s the exact same designation if it’s a mixture of vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Safe, but wear a mask. To protect those who don’t care about being protected.

I don’t mind wearing a mask. It’s become normal. Sure, wearing it for eight hours straight at school is tougher than when I was maxing out at a couple hours before. After four weeks, I’ve noticed the skin behind my ears is getting rashy and blistery. 

But fine, it’s modeling. It’s solidarity. There’s no way for the stranger I pass to know if I’m vaccinated or not. And they might be nervous.

But if they’re nervous, shouldn’t they, I don’t know, get vaccinated?

Honestly, it’s available to everyone above 16 now. Those who don’t have it are choosing that. Why in the greatest of fucks should I worry about them?

I had a student who came to school for a week, then opted to return to distance learning. His mother emailed me, his history teacher, to explain that she didn’t feel we were doing enough to inhibit the spread of the virus. They have an at-risk uncle in the house, she explained, and she’s worried about her son bringing the virus home to the uncle.

Sounds horrible. And if this email were hitting my desk in November, I’d be right there with y’all. But how is “at-risk” uncle still not vaccinated by the beginning of May?

So fine. Keep wearing the mask to remind people that they’re supposed to be wearing masks. Even if the only people we’re reminding are probably as anti-mask as they are anti-vax. 

I know it’s not realistic to only tell the vaccinated people people to take off their masks while the unvaccinated keep them on. How do I prove to the bartender that I’m vaccinated? Couldn’t the unvaccinated guy say the same thing (those vaccine cards don’t seem overly difficult to counterfeit), especially since he probably rolls his eyes at the idea of me getting a vaccine in the first place. He probably listens to Ted Nugent who somehow can simultaneously say it was the sickest he’s ever been and that it’s not real. 

Which is what’s pissing me off so much about this. Because if I’m not masked, I might carry the virus from one unvaccinated person to another unvaccinated person. I’m sorry, but how the hell is that my problem? Shouldn’t I be taking off my mask, increasing their risk so they might get off their ass and get the vaccine? Why are we protecting them from themselves? 

I don’t want to say I only vaccinated for selfish reasons, but about ninety percent of that reason was so I wouldn’t catch the virus nor spread it to friends and family. Flatten the curve, free up hospital beds. Societal responsibility, blah, blah, blah. I know what I’m supposed to say. But I got vaccinated for me and mine, not for you. 

But you know what would REALLY flatten the curve and free up hospital beds? If all of those Ted Nugent-listening fuckers got vaccinated. Or died. 

But instead they’re going to keep spouting off their conspiracy theories without facing the repercussions, because they all know that we’re looking out for them. Think of the irony we’ll face when you’re out on the street and all the vaccinated people are wearing masks and all the unvaccinated aren’t. Congrtu-fucking-lations!

Seriously, anti-vaxxers, let this serve as a public service announcement. You’re on borrowed time. It’s time to shit or get off the pot. Figure out what’s more important to you, being the last fucker on the Titanic or hedging your bets. Because the time of us conscientious people covering your lazy ass.

Y’all aren’t the only people tired of all the bullshit. We want to stop wearing masks, too. We want to go to bars and movie theaters and concerts. That’s why we got vaccinated. 

You like to complain about the snowflakes who won’t let shit open? Well guess what, snowflakes, you’re the ones preventing the openings now. And why, because the government, which you always whine about being slow and inefficient, approved the vaccines without ten years of testing? It’s comical how many people will whine about too many regulations and the government getting in the way of private business in one breath, then in the next opine that the government didn’t do enough to get in the way of Pfizer and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

And if you think it’ll rewrite your DNA, don’t worry. I’m the same fat schlub I was before and you’ll be the same YouTube-watching automaton afterward, too.

It’s almost like they’re just scared little snowflakes who don’t want a little jabby-jabby in their army-warmy.