On the first day that the mask mandate was lifted here in B.C., I had an appointment at the optometrist in the mall. I was curious to see how many people would be without masks.
I was asked to wear a mask for my appointment, so it was hanging beneath my chin as I walked toward the mall entrance. Approaching the door, I placed it securely over my face, out of habit, or maybe just because I wasn’t ready to be without one yet.
How many people would show their faces?
When I opened the door, I was immediately surprised to see three ladies about my age, without masks. They were giving the thumbs up to each other. I assumed it was because they were happy to be mask-less, but I don’t know for sure.
I had half expected all of the mask-less minions to be young and male. Maybe that came from watching and reading too many stories lately about the so-called Freedom Convoy.
My guess was that about 90% of the people in the mall that day had masks on. They were all ages, although the majority were middle-aged and older.
Since then I think that number has gone down to maybe 50-60% or less.
The truth is that, for many of us, it feels strange not wearing a mask. Two years of heightened awareness, of strict protocols and news about upticks in COVID cases, deaths, and virulent variants, have made us extremely cautious. So not wearing one just feels wrong, somehow.
It took awhile to get used to donning masks in the first place, but in the beginning we used our creativity and embraced the notion of mask wearing in public. Well, some of us did. But it was a novelty, and as usual, the novelty wore off and the reality sunk in.
They were sometimes a pain to get on or off, especially with glasses or hats or hearing aids. They made it difficult to converse with people or to understand instructions. They made your glasses fog up. Sometimes it was just that much more difficult to breathe.
You’d think we’d all be happy to be rid of them.
I have a collection of masks from many different sources over the past two years. I have Christmas masks, funny masks, N95 and KN95 masks. I have mask extenders, ties and clips. I always have one in my purse, in my car, and in my coat pocket. Just like Kleenex.
But like many people, I’m not quite ready to be without them yet. “We need to support that. We need to recognize that we all have our own risks and our own vulnerabilities,” Bonnie Henry said at the news conference announcing the end of mandate.
I would add “anxieties”.
At this point, I find myself staring at people indoors without masks. Maybe I’m just not used to seeing naked faces. I have to keep reminding myself that masks are no longer required, at least for now, and people should do what they’re comfortable doing.
As long as the mask-less offer me the same respect.