Breathing Freely

Everyone was wearing a mask when I went to the grocery store on Tuesday. Even though they didn’t have to.

Ontario lifted many of its pandemic restrictions Monday, including mask wearing in most public settings. I expected to see a lot of naked faces when I shopped. I didn’t.

Some grocery store staff were unmasked, but none of the customers I saw. When I thought about it, I really wasn’t that surprised. After all, I was wearing a mask.

Health officials have strongly suggested that people continue with face coverings, given that COVID-19 is still among us. Most people it seems have decided to take that advice – though over time I am sure many will stop wearing it. 

It is one thing to wear a mask for 15 minutes when I duck into the store. I dislike wearing one for longer periods, so I am not surprised that some store employees have chosen to breathe freely. I would too in their position.

I was a little more surprised at myself in choosing to wear a mask when I didn’t have to. After all, I dislike the things immensely, even as I acknowledge they can be beneficial. My expectation was I would dump mine as soon as legally allowed.

Still, I put it on before entering the store. It was a short trip, and I was curious to see what other people were doing. I had thought perhaps half would still be masked. By wearing a mask, I felt people would not be uneasy around me. It has been two years after all – naked faces seem strange. 

Looking at all the masked faces made me wonder: why didn’t we do this sooner? Why was it necessary for government to order people to wear a facemask, and introduce penalties for non-compliance? Canadians are a smart people, wouldn’t we have followed the health experts guidance anyway, as people are doing now?

Is it that politicians must make rules to justify their existence? That having power, they feel they must exercise it? Or is their view of the people they serve so limited they felt rules were necessary?

I already know that there will be public settings where I will drop the mask if it is permitted. When paying big bucks for a sporting event or a concert, I’d like to be able to breathe freely. I’ll take the risk of getting sick, just like I have done with the flu or measles or any other disease in the past. My choice, not the government’s.

(Our nanny state made masks mandatory at outdoor sporting events, despite the evidence that casual outdoor transmission risk is negligible. Our politicians’ goal seemed to be to prevent any COVID infection, which was never a feasible plan.)

I think I am comfortable with going maskless in any setting, though I know many people aren’t. Most of us will probably still continue to carry a mask or two with us, something to wear to set other people at ease if the situation warrants. 

It is so nice though that it is now our choice.

This post was written on public transit while wearing a facemask. The mask mandate for transit lasts until the end of April. 


One comment

  1. We ditched the masks completely in January when we entered the U.S. Within a few weeks we had a mild case of Covid, which was what we expected would happen. The freedom to live normally among people who are living normally – it is priceless.

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