After some pondering, I think I now understand better why some people go overboard when it comes to wearing masks.

Let me clarify one thing first: I don't apologize when I wear a mask; I don't apologize when I don't wear a mask. God knows I have enough to apologize for, but masks are not one of them. Please don't apologize to me for your own mask status; it's your decision, and absolutely none of my business.

Another thing: I am not talking about people wearing masks because they or someone close to them are at special risk. Or want to take extra care because of an imminent event, such as surgery, or travel. Or because it's oak pollen season, or even in hopes of filtering out someone's cigarette smoke.

But aside from all that, there are definitely people who seem to see wearing masks as talismans, or some sort of religious duty independent of risk of disease. Wearing a mask while driving alone with the windows up. Wearing a mask outdoors with no other human being within 100 yards. You know what I mean; I'm sure you've seen it yourself.

My question was, why? And I think I have an answer.

For 62 years, my eyes were protected from flying objects—bugs, dust, wood chips, branches that fly back and slap me in the face when hiking—by my eyeglasses. And then I had cataract surgery, and suddenly didn't need glasses anymore. Not for distance vision, anyway. Until my eyes were stable enough after surgery to get progressive lenses (a few months), I only wore glasses for near-distance work. And you know what? It drove me crazy. Oh, it was wonderful to be able to see without glasses! But I became paranoid about my eyes, because they no longer had their protective shields. No matter how many times I reminded myself that nearly everyone in the history of the world has managed just fine without glasses, it still freaked me out.

Other things, too. For most of my life I managed just fine without a cell phone, and now I become quite anxious if I discover I've left the house and forgotten my phone. Even though in an emergency there are sure to be many other people with phones around to help out.

When we moved back to this house after living in Boston for a while, we found that our tenants had installed chain locks on our doors. We had never had them before, never wanted them—but now we use them, because they're there. It doesn't seem quite safe not to, even though it always was.

You can think of your own examples, I'm sure. Auto seat belts. Bike helmets. Freaking out if a baby is put down on his stomach instead of his back. The certainty that the unvaccinated person on the subway is going to give you a fatal case of COVID.

Anytime our awareness of risk has become heightened, we fear to deviate even slightly from that which we associate with protection.

I remember vividly, though it was decades ago, when a friend, an ambulance driver, firmly assured me that child car seats are good, but they are not magic.  Unfortunately, we humans have a tendency to respond better to superstition and magic than to reason and logic.

Our first reaction on hearing of misfortune is not one of sympathy, but to ask the questions that will separate ourselves from the unfortunates: Was he wearing a seatbelt? Is she a smoker? Were they vaccinated? If we can draw a line that places ourselves on the righteous side, we assure ourselves that the victims have only themselves to blame and it will never happen to us. As my friend pointed out, this is 100% the wrong attitude. It is both inhumane and inaccurate.

I've even caught myself putting on a mask in a low-risk situation because I knew I'd blame myself if I got sick and had to cancel an important occasion. Even though the chance of that being the case was infinitesimal, and I knew it.

But I didn't catch COVID in the "free state" of Florida, which much of the rest of the United States thinks oh-so-dangerous because our COVID rules have always been on the relaxed side.

I caught it in France, a country that doesn't even let you cross the border if you are not fully vaccinated, and in a situation were the people I was with were COVID-tested every single day.

You just never know. Things happen.

Perhaps the best thing we can do is be patient with each other, even if our paranoid tendencies manifest themselves in different ways.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 12, 2022 at 4:01 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 97 times
Category Hurricanes and Such: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Health: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
Comments
Add comment

(Comments may be delayed by moderation.)