There are a lot of questions around the use of masks at the moment. Some countries have made them compulsory when stepping outdoors. In others it’s left up to the individual whether they wear one or not. The scientific view seems to be that they are only of any use if worn correctly, and most people don’t. In the supermarket I shop at most of the staff wear them. Equally, most of them spend a lot of time fiddling with it, re-arranging it across their nose and over their mouth. In such cases you may as well not bother.
There are a variety of mask designs out there. The meanest is paper, looking like something a child created in an origami lesson, the straps flimsy and easily torn from the mask part. At the other end of the scale are those that look like they are straight out of Porton Down, or some equivalent germ-warfare centre. Seriously over the top. I saw a lady this morning wearing a most fetching one of a lovely flowered fabric, clearly home-made and a perfect fit across her face.
There seems no pattern to who wears them. I’ve seen them on young and old of all colours and creeds. In the supermarket yesterday, a place visited mainly by carless younger people, most customers had one on. It seemed to mean they could wander blithely around the store as though they were the only ones in there, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, reaching past you to get to what they wanted, in one case grabbing another customer’s trolley to get past it rather than waiting as the rest of us were.
In the fresh market this morning a lady being served in front of me wore one of the flimsy paper varieties, a pointed paper effort that she kept pulling at as she spoke. As the sign on the counter requested, she stepped back after placing her order, giving the assistant space. In the process she almost bumped into a lady passing. She then walked up and down the counter, scattering customers as she strolled, seemingly oblivious to their existence and that she should be as far away from them as she was the assistant. She picked up her bread order, swung around with her trolley and nearly mowed down the waiting queue of customers respectfully standing two metres apart. I narrowly avoided being trampled by climbing up the shelving, avoiding the temptation to throw bags of bagels down on her.
I’ve clearly missed something in this mask-wearing debate – the bit that says if you wear a mask you can be as close to others as you want to be. Or does the wearing of one mask your ability to be aware of other people and the social distancing rule we are all supposed to be following? I’d be interested to hear a scientific viewpoint on this. Maybe I’ll start wearing one.