When time and good weather allow, you’ll often find me on my bike. I really enjoy it… doing something healthy that gives me the opportunity to get lost in my thoughts without interruption. And since physical distancing doesn’t mean locking yourself in a cabinet, just staying far away from other people, today was a perfect day to do that, and the contents of what you’re reading were generated while cycling around the city, observing people.
And what I saw many of were… masks. A hot topic these days, so just thinking about it as I rode around — here is every argument I could think of, broken down into 4 quadrants of possibilities, and reasons that fit those categories, as wrong or misguided or irrelevant as they may be. A brain white-boarding exercise to see if out of the conflicting arguments, some sort of reasonable course of action can emerge. And many of these reasons aren’t just made up by me, they’re speculative… so put “might” or “could” in front of most of these:
A. Reasons you should wear a mask
– prevents you coughing your potentially infected droplets onto other people and surfaces
– prevents you inhaling other people’s droplets who cough in your vicinity
– shows others you’re taking this seriously
B. Reasons you shouldn’t wear a mask
– there’s a front-line medical worker who needs it more
– increased (false) sense of security
– virus could get caught in it and linger there for a while, increasing your risk of infection
– looks silly
C. Reasons everyone else should wear a mask
– when they cough, they’re not shedding virus onto other people or surfaces
D. Reasons everyone else shouldn’t wear a mask
– looks silly
– can traumatize and cause anxiety in other people
There’s this whole “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” thing… but I prefer a slight variation: “don’t do unto others what you wouldn’t want them to do to you” — it’s a subtle difference, but it’s more along the lines of… if what you’re doing isn’t hurting anyone, they shouldn’t care. And, of course, if someone else is doing something that doesn’t hurt you, you shouldn’t care.
That came to mind because I look at A and B, and I suppose you could argue either side. But when you look at it from the other point of view, the answer that emerges is pretty obvious… everyone should be wearing masks, because there’s no good reason NOT to, and there’s the potential benefit to you, if everyone else is wearing one. And therefore, for that to work, everyone should wear one. Not everyone will subscribe to that point of view, which is fine… but the conclusion is, if wearing a mask isn’t hurting anyone and can possibly benefit the greater good, go for it. No one is stopping you.
And when I say mask, I mean anything that blocks you coughing on people and things. Without getting into an N95 discussion — by all means, priority one for those things are the front-line workers — but anything else… surgical masks, cosmetic masks, bandanas, scarves, baggy turtlenecks, whatever. Whereas in the past, reasons under D may actually have been relevant… like, for sure, 6 months ago, someone walking in with a hazmat mask into Whole Foods would have gotten a lot of looks and a wide berth. These days, you could show up wearing a 100-year-old diving suit with those huge metallic helmets that look like an alien — and nobody would bat an eye.
B.C.’s numbers are looking very encouraging. I know I sound like a broken record, but for those who ever had real records, ie vinyl, will recall that the easiest way to break a record was to overplay it. After 10,000 times of listening to Dark Side of the Moon, it began to skip… one particular spot, it’d jump back about 5 seconds. Over and over. Much like the message of physical distancing. I will keep repeating it until we’re all allowed to engage in a 100,000 person group-hug, signifying the end of this thing. Until then, keep at it… it’s making a difference. And, if you need to go out, feel free to cover your face… with anything. It can’t hurt.