I had some business to transact at a local establishment. First, though, I called with a question. After answering it, the man on the other end of the line said, “We’re asking customers to wear masks.”

I said, “Absolutely.”

He said, “Beautiful.”

The poor guy must be getting a lot of backlash, I thought. I don’t go anywhere indoors without my mask, but some people think their civil liberties are under attack if they’re required to wear one.

What about “No shirts, no shoes, no service”? Isn’t that the same thing?

Well, shoes aren’t political. Masks are. Restrictions designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus are. They shouldn’t be. Wearing a mask in a pandemic is just as important to public health as people wearing shoes in places where food is served.

Unfortunately, we have a president who refuses to wear a mask. A president who recently told NBC, “We want to get back to normal where you have the big crowds, and they’re practically standing on top of each other and enjoying themselves, not where they’re worried.”

So, suddenly it’s us against them — the masked and the unmasked. In the middle of a pandemic. When working together by staying apart is the way we beat this thing. Whether we like it or not.

It defies comprehension.

My husband, Paul, recently posted a picture on Facebook of a man and a woman carrying a banner. He was packing heat. She was wearing a Trump T-shirt.

The sign read: “I will not trade my freedom for your safety!”

And doesn’t that say it all about the predicament we now find ourselves in?

I encountered two of the same type at the grocery store the other day. They were coming down the aisle the wrong way, without masks, and he was video chatting. Walking and yapping, potentially sending droplets everywhere.

I was wearing a mask, but I turned and hightailed it for another aisle. I felt a little sorry for myself because I couldn’t get the salad dressing I wanted. The one-way aisles make it impossible to retrace your steps unless you want to feel like Public Enemy No. 1. No surprise: I don’t.

But I really feel sorry for my country. The people protesting the restrictions, who think wearing a mask should be optional, are in the  minority. But the fact that they exist dismays me. Scares me.

A couple of hours after my telephone conversation with the store employee, I headed off to his business to complete my errand. I do all of the shopping in my household, as Paul is over 65 and has asthma. I feel a lot of anxiety about it, especially when going into a store for the first time since the pandemic began.

But I was OK with this upcoming transaction because I anticipated all customers would be wearing masks. Also, contact would be limited. All I would need to do was have my phone scanned.

As I entered the building, I noticed the sign explaining that masks were required. Another sign asked customers to observe physical distancing.

Inside the small space, there was one woman at the counter. Masked. Another woman stood an appropriate distance behind her. Masked. A third woman. Unmasked. Then me. The door opened and a second unmasked woman entered, which placed her rather close to me. She apologized and took up a spot across the room.

The young male staffer was masked. As the first woman departed, he noticed the two unmasked customers.

“You need to wear a mask,” he said mildly.

“Really?” they said. Both claimed they hadn’t seen the sign on the door. I was feeling feisty, so I pointed to the glass door, where the backs of the signs were clearly visible.

The last woman to arrive said, “I have a mask in the car. I should put it on?”

Well, yeah. She went out. leaving one unmasked woman inside.

The staffer quickly took care of the masked woman now at the counter. She left. The remaining unmasked woman was still standing there. It was her turn.

“You need to wear a mask.”

“Why? Some places are requiring it but others aren’t.”

This went on for several minutes.

Behind my mask I was starting to feel warm. I hate this new life, I thought. I’m going to cry.

“I can’t serve you if you don’t wear a mask.”

“Is that the law or your rule?”

“My employer’s.”

Well, even the stupid and belligerent can’t argue about that. She was on private property. She went out to her car to get a mask.

No shoes, no shirts, no masks, no service.

I stepped up, completed my transaction and thanked the young man. Then I gave him a thumbs-up. “Thank you for standing up for what’s right,” I said.

I had started to write this column the day before, in response to reports from the news media and social media on the exploits of the unmasked. Little did I know that the next day would plant one such person right in front of me.

At an appropriate distance, of course. I saw to that.

 

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected].


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