Talking sense into anti-maskers is hard work

just wear the damn thing emerald magazine

We can educate our friends, but unmasked crowds are another story

by Pratheeksha R. Naik , Contributor

It finally happened to me today – I knew it would eventually, but I was ready. I came out of Walmart with my mask on, keeping six feet of distance from everyone, and pushed my cart to my car. A woman was getting out of her car next to me with no mask. As I’m putting groceries into my car, she says, “Let me guess – you’re a liberal. Cause that mask ain’t gonna do anything for you except make you look stupid.” In anticipation of this happening, I already had a response ready. I said to her, “Look, I woke up with a temperature of 102 this morning (I didn’t) plus I work around hundreds of people in close quarters (I don’t) so this is for your protection, not mine. How about I take it off and we hug like old friends?” I stepped toward her and acted as if I was taking off my mask. She stepped back away from me and went across to the next row of cars. I followed her, she kept walking away, I chased her, she ran… She fell down. I grabbed her foot. I pulled on her leg, just as I’m pulling yours.

The above was a forwarded message that has been doing rounds on social media for quite some time, to bring awareness among anti-maskers. By now, most of us have seen these people around: people without masks in places where masks are recommended. On top of that, among all the masked persons in that place, these are the ones coughing out or with a crusty nose. I can’t help but get annoyed, but on the contrary, these are the people that glance back and act annoyed at you for wearing a mask. The maximum discomfort that could happen is fogging up your glasses if you wear them – or worse, it wouldn’t go well with your outfit. But they still act like it isn’t their problem! I read an anti-masker’s Facebook post that said, “Why invent a vaccine when Coronavirus can be killed by hand sanitizer?” The post got more “Haha” reacts than comments, and she seemed concerned, calling people ‘foolish to not think of this.’ Does this make you want to act like the person in that forwarded joke message in real life? It does for me.

My roommate works part-time in a store, and as Saskatchewan reaches Phase 2 of re-opening he asked, “Why do most people still wear masks? We all wore them for a month, and COVID still exists. So we might as well just go about our day without wearing one. Masks are marketing techniques. Locals just want to make some income for their knitting!” I spent two entire weeks trying to explain to him with statistical proofs, examples, illustrations and all there is on the net that the mask is not meant to be “the elixir” for COVID-19, but is precautionary. Remember the good old saying “Better safe than sorry.” Still, my friend asks back, “What if we fall sick because wearing the mask is nauseating?” After even more proof, demonstrations, and stats, he decides to end the topic. He finally wears a mask now, but I don’t take credit for that. He wears it not because I knocked some sense into him but because masks were mandated in the store where we work, and a customer specifically complained about him saying “she doesn’t feel safe.” So, clearly, his job was at stake.

If one has a close acquaintance like mine, one is able spend some time explaining the benefits of wearing a mask to them. This is only because if, heaven forbid, something were to go wrong with this person, you could be a close contact for them. But if the anti-masker in question is just some random Karen at the road shouting, there’s not much you can do. We have seen ‘Anti-Maskers’ protesting with no precautions in place: beaches in Florida and pool parties in Wuhan are a testimony to this. In fact, Donald Trump going places and golfing with no mask on still tops the list. In my opinion, these groups of people could be Trump supporters, or just the types to make a big deal out of something like foggy glasses or marks on the face. While I agree that the discomfort associated with masks is real, wearing it is one way to keep our environment safe. It is so much better than wearing an entire PPE kit, which the essential workforce is doing day in and day out, controlling their biological needs. 

Unless addressed on a person-to-person basis, like with my friend, I choose not to deal with this anti-masking community firsthand. For that matter, I believe ignorance is bliss with them until they get a taste of their own medicine. “Does this even happen?” you may ask. Well, my parents informed me recently that six neighboring kids got together to play a game of cricket with some witnesses, no precautionary measures in place, and in a week’s time about 70 cases of COVID emerged around the city. They were all traced to the kids’ game, and 43 of them were never even in the venue themselves. Incidents like these should be some real eye-openers for anti-maskers. 

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