The dual realities of not wearing a mask

In the last number of months I’ve been seeing more people not wearing masks when they’re grocery or furniture shopping.

To clarify: Toronto holds the title, good or bad, of being the longest locked-down city in the world. We are still, as of this writing, asked to wear masks when in commercial spaces and even in some outdoor spaces like school yards when picking up our kids. That requirement may be easing in the next couple of weeks, but as of right now, it’s still a thing.


Tired of nearly two years of wearing masks, and no doubt emboldened by the self-titled Freedom Convoy, more and more people seem to be going into commercial spaces and picking up kids without a mask on.

Some of these people are clearly looking to be confrontational. I worked in security for several years, but it doesn’t take experience to spot someone who’s trying to be noticed for doing something they know they aren’t supposed to be doing but is hoping someone tells them that so they can have a target for their general anger or, more currently, for nonsense about why they don’t think they need to wear a mask in a store where “Please wear a mask” is clearly posted on every door.

Eyes set a little hard. Chin stuck out slightly more. A bit more swagger in the forced casual way they carry themselves. Daring–inviting–anyone to question them so that they can just unload their opinions.

But while I’m sometimes tempted, I don’t say anything to these people.

Not the lady in the grocery store leaning into her intent walk. Just try to stop me.

Not the twenty-something with the angled ball cap. Come at me, bro.

Not the guy wearing his sunglasses in the home furnishings area who’s making a show of going back and forth through people, switching between two couches that he really spreads out to be seen enjoying. Look at me flaunting the rules! Hey, everyone, look!

No mask in sight on any of them, but each just itching to be confronted about it.

Conflict has always worn me out. If I get into an argument with someone, I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted by it. I think that’s part of why I don’t approach these people.

But the bigger part is that I’m just so totally done with that attitude that I can’t be bothered. We’ve all seen too much of it since the pandemic started and we were first asked to wear masks, and we’ve seen and heard the justifications for it throughout:
– “If I get it, I get it.” As if this is a contained, personal condition like a broken leg where it’s only you dealing with it, ignoring that anyone else you speak to or interact with or even pass on the street may catch it from you and that hey, maybe all those people don’t want it.
– “I have the freedom to not have to wear a mask if I don’t want to.” First off, your freedom ends at the endangerment of other people. (Don’t believe me? Try shooting a legally owned gun in a public space and see how long it takes for your freedom to be trumped by you risking the well-being of others.) Secondly, yes, you absolutely do have some freedoms. But so do the businesses you wish to shop in. You wouldn’t argue the Shirts and Shoes Required policy that McDonald’s puts on their doors, yet feel the right to argue their asking you to put a mask on. Pick a lane.
– “Masks don’t do any good anyway.” Cherry-picking what medical science you believe is genuinely bizarre. If you have a health condition, you’d see a doctor or two and do what they recommend to get better. Yet somehow when those same health professionals ask you to put a mask on to not spread your germs to others, it’s hogwash. If you sincerely believe that, next time you have an operation done, be sure to tell the staff doing the procedure to not wear any masks while you’re splayed open on the table. Let me know how that goes.

I’ve heard all the cooked-up justifications for not wearing a mask and rolled my eyes at it all so hard that it’s amazing they haven’t fallen out of the back of my head. So no, I don’t confront these people, because they’ve already chosen to ignore everything I’d tell them anyway. We’d just butt heads, get ourselves wound up and make a spectacle, and it would still end with each of us thinking exactly what we did before the confrontation. Lose-lose.

But what I wish they would realize is that they aren’t strong for doing not doing what they should. On the contrary, they’re so weak that they won’t make even a simple effort to help protect others during the first pandemic in a century.

They aren’t mavericks or rebels or sticking it to The Man. They’re contrarians who are simply not doing what they should be doing because they don’t like being told what they should be doing.

They they aren’t going to go down in the history books as Alphas blazing the trail of true freedom, which I suspect they sincerely think they will. In their reality, everyone wearing a mask is a fool oblivious to the truth and/or sheep just doing what they’re told.
But not them, no sir. They won’t listen to these so-called “experts” with their alleged “collective centuries of medical knowledge” supposedly telling us “how the biology of how transmission works”.
Nah, man.
They heard what that celebrity said, or read that guy’s blog–that had the word “truth” in the title so you know it was true–about what’s really going on.

Of course, most of us know that no retrospective glory awaits these people. Instead, they’re simply going to go down in history as so misguided and self-important that, when simply asked to wear a mask in businesses, they couldn’t even be bothered to do that small, simple thing in order to help protect others.

But sure, Shades. Cut through more people to really, super enjoy those two couches. Good look.