That I haven’t written one of my coronavirus missives in more than two weeks says two things: first, that I’ve been consumed with other things; and second, my family has largely adapted.
That doesn’t mean things are necessarily easy. Margaret and I needed to run a bunch of errands on Sunday. At the end of them we realized we were hungry and, more urgently, needed to pee.
We were a half hour from home. The nearby Starbucks wasn’t allowing the public to use their restrooms, as a protection against COVID-19. The surrounding gas stations looked sketchy and dirty.
I knew of a restaurant Downtown that had plenty of outdoor seating, and since we would be customers they’d let us use their restroom. It was ten minutes away, so that’s where we went. We had terrific cheeseburgers and glasses of beer and it felt so good and normal.
But using the restroom provoked some anxiety. It was big enough for just one person, a tight fit. Was someone just in here? Were they sick? Was whatever they breathed out still hanging in the air? Would my mask protect me at all? I wasn’t going to be able to hold my breath through the entire visit. I didn’t even try. I just hoped for the best.
Our table was a good ten feet away from the nearest tables, which we liked. We had our masks, but it just wasn’t practical to swallow fast and put them on every time our server walked up to check on us. She was masked, so she was reasonably protecting us. But we weren’t protecting her, and she had no way of knowing whether we were carrying the virus. Heck, neither did we. Everyone in our house but me has to report to their workplace. Who knows whether the people they work with are carrying the virus? Were we putting our server at risk? Was everybody around us putting their servers at risk?
Our lives can’t stop entirely because of the virus. We need to bring in our paychecks so that we can afford to live. When we support businesses that were hit hard when everything shut down in March, we help others pay their bills, too.
But all of us have a responsibility to protect each other. At the moment, the best way anybody knows to do that is to wear a mask when you’re around people you don’t live with. Sometimes, that’s just impractical. Most of the time it’s not.
I encounter entirely too many people who aren’t wearing masks when I do the things I have to do outside my home. I haven’t counted, but I’d say it’s one third to one half of everyone I see. I’m losing my patience with it.
I get it, this is America, rugged individualism, Don’t Tread On Me, and all that. But this is also a nation that bands together in times of trouble. I’ve seen it. Why are we not doing it this time?