Mask etiquette

Mask etiquette is such a tricky thing these days; do I offend if I take it off? Leave it on? What’s a girl to do?

While the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, life is getting better here in Trinidad every day.

Vaccines are available. Restrictions are lifting. Businesses are up and running. Existence is really getting back to normal.

But ‘normal’ doesn’t feel like I thought it would.

During the dark days of stay-at-home orders, quarantines, and remote everything, when I only imagined the day that I could get back to my normal life, my fantasies were filled with glitter and cartwheels and unicorns and rainbows, folks square-dancing in the streets and hugging and smiling as we threw away our masks and social-distancing tape measures.

But the reality hasn’t been like that.

Being normal feels — well — weird.

Case in point: a few weeks ago, my family decided to go to Santa Fe for a day trip during Spring Break.

My husband, daughter, and I have all been vaccinated. A short day trip is, in theory, a relatively safe activity to undertake with precautions such as masks, hand sanitizer, and the like.

We decided to skip the usual crowded tourist attractions and stick to just a handful of stores for our adventure — just to play it safe. I was excited on the drive through New Mexico. The desert sky was a brilliant blue. The little towns dotting the highway were picturesque and the spring weather was balmy and perfect.

Everything was grand — until we got to Santa Fe. As my daughter and I meandered through a clothing store, which has always been one of our favorite places to shop-’til-we-drop, I found myself giving all my fellow shoppers the stink-eye. Who WERE these people?

Logically, I knew that the Santa Fe-ians were decent, lovely folks. But my imagination was whispering evilness in my ear: “They probably don’t wash their hands. They’re covered in COVID. Who knows what they’ve touched in this store with their grubby paws — UNCLEAN!”

I knew the silly voice in my head was illogical. But I couldn’t get it to shut up.

Another case in point: As you know, I’m a teacher. Last week, my principal told the staff that hopefully, we will transition to full time in-person learning for our secondary students before the end of the semester. As I listened to his words, I shuddered with anxiety — my heart started racing. My hands got clammy. I started to sweat. My instinct was to bolt for the nearest emergency exit.

Logically, I know in-person is the right move to make. I’m fully vaccinated. I can teach better when my students are in the same room as I am. It’s better for kiddos socially. It’s better for families.

But after a year of strict social distancing, it just FEELS weird.

Even mask etiquette is a difficult situation to maneuver through these days. For example, I went on a jog with my buddy Lisa from her house to her mom’s place across town. When we arrived at her mother’s, sweaty and hot from our hard run, we went inside to grab some water. Now, all three of us were fully vaccinated. And the CDC says that fully vaccinated folks don’t have to wear masks indoors in small gatherings.

But I popped on a mask before entering the house anyway. Because to NOT do so just felt, well, rude. Like tracking in mud on a freshly mopped floor — or eating off of a stranger’s plate.

I know. I’m weird. But it’s not my fault. The world has been weird for a year. I’ve just done my best to roll with it.

And despite how odd everything feels as we get back to normal, I am excited to finally begin the journey back. Back to my friends. Back to my extended family. Back to my community.

And I know that someday, ‘normal’ will feel natural again.

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