The Privilege of Wearing a Mask

The mask: the topic of debate all over the internet and often in public as well. The new item that you run back into your house to retrieve before heading out. The accessory that so many people have a personal issue with.

At my store, I have seen just about every possible way of wearing a mask. People wear a mask that it far too big and falls off, thus completing missing the point of having it at all. People hang it on their ear or pull it down to their chin, as if they have forgotten that the purpose is to cover your mouth. I sometimes wonder if the message about wearing the mask has been forgotten. I think many people wear it now as a symbol that they are “woke”, and not necessarily to protect themselves and others. They wear it to get into public places, and then take it off at their earliest convenience. My theory is that many people wear it to boost their self-esteem, as if to say, “Look at how good a human I am.”

Of course, not everyone even bothers to wear the mask to avoid public scrutiny. At one of my recent shifts, I was stationed at the front of the store to monitor the lineup and to remind people of our safety protocols before entering our store. One man approached and asked if he could enter to meet his wife, who was already shopping inside. I said that he was more than welcome as long as he put on a face mask. Since he did not have one of his own, I offered him one of the disposable masks that our company provided for customers. He insisted that he did not need one because “it’s not illegal to not wear a mask.” I kept my tone pleasant and reminded him that businesses have their own rules and regulations that do not necessarily coincide with what the provincial government says. The man grew more and more angry, raising his voice and kept insisting that it was not against the law. I just kept thinking about the irony of him preaching about the law, when his understanding of business law was so poor that he did not remember that we can refuse entry as we see fit. As he continued to repeat the same things over and over, I respectfully but firmly told him that he would only be permitted to enter if he put on the free mask that I was offering him. He finally gave up and went to sit in the mall. I was shocked that his pride was so inflated that he would not accept a free mask to enter a store.

The next day, when I was again stationed at the front of the store, I had a lady claim that she could not wear a mask because of a medical condition. Unsure of what to do in this unfamiliar situation, I asked my manager to come meet us at the front. My manager asked if we could have more information about the condition and see any documentation that could prove this. The lady had no proof and just kept rambling about how she could not wear a mask until she slipped up in her lie by exclaiming, “I just don’t wear masks!” It turned out that she had no medical condition whatsoever that would prevent her from wearing a mask and was so set in her personal beliefs that she would lie about a serious condition to bypass a rule. She left after we told her that since she had no legitimate excuse, she would have to wear a mask to enter the store.

It baffles my mind when I think of the lengths people will go to avoid wearing a mask. I see it as a courtesy to others, and I feel privileged to have it at all. Masks are available for low prices to the public, not just people in the medical field. If you are well enough to go out in public and wear a mask, you are privileged to not have been affected by the virus that is destroying peoples’ lives. If you are well enough to act as if life is relatively normal again, you should be able to do this one simple thing, without complaint, to better serve your community.

(Featured Image by Javad Esmaeili on Unsplash)


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