In this age when you can search and surf to find every sort of weird imaginable thing on the interweb, a new layer of weird has surfaced. This time, it is the face mask. The masks have come out to prevent the spread of virus. And they have transformed our society from a friendly, smiling, “Good morning, how are you?” type of existence into an unrecognizable and expressionless set of eyeballs that look at you with a suspicion that you are about to infect the world. The masked masses have created the closest thing to a zombie invasion that I hope to ever experience.
The masks have come out in spite of the mixed messages we receive from our civic leaders. “They are effective.” “They are not effective.” Not long ago, the CDC and others said the masks were not effective in preventing the spread of the virus. That thinking was revisited recently and now we are being asked to wear masks whenever we are in public. But when the public officials speak of our wearing masks to prevent the spread, even they don’t seem to be convinced. They are quick to stress social distancing and handwashing as being the most effective means to prevent more infections.
Nevertheless, the public has responded by breaking out the masks. Masks of all types, from woodworking masks to handkerchiefs to colorful face wraps are all making their public appearance. Some lucky few have obtained official-looking medical masks that do look like they would be effective. As for the rest of us with our makeshift covers, you would have to wonder if they are doing any good at all.
In another level of weird, drivers on the road seem to be keeping to the six-foot social distancing rule with their cars. This weekend, I observed cars on Highway 6 giving each other an extra wide berth on the roadway, hugging opposite sides of the lane as if one vehicle carrying a sick passenger might somehow transmit that illness across the lane onto the metal of another vehicle and, thus, infecting its occupants. That would be some trick. But weirder still, when I got home, my car engine was coughing. That is weird.
The masks that we wear hide our smiles and prohibit our friendly greetings. But the accusatory looks from those scared eyes say a lot. Yes, we are scared. And yes, this virus is doing some real harm to us as a people and otherwise.
Several cities take pride in their weirdness. I’ve seen advertising to “Keep Austin Weird” and “Keep Portland Weird.” Well, we are now to the point of keeping everywhere weird, whether intentional or not. So, let’s put on our masks and roll with it. Who knows, you may enjoy being weird for a little while.
Johnny McNally is Grimes County’s Best Dressed Businessman advocating for Grimes County.