Mask stories
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OPINION

Mask stories

I wrote a poem when I was in college in 1957, during the flu pandemic that took more than a million American lives.

The poem, of which I only recall bits and pieces, went something like this:

The flu is coming was the word,

In every ear these words were heard.

A typical victim was Miss Myrna F.,

To flu warnings she was totally deaf.

And then into her mouth a germ flew with haste,

And multiplied without a moment’s waste.

The poem continued, and so did the flu. Both Miss Myrna F. and I, Miss Rosanne L., spent many miserable days battling it. My poetry writing did nothing to ward it off.

Fast forward and here we are, all these years later, and the entire world is caught off-guard by the nasty mutations of the evil creature known as corona. We hate it, but not nearly as much as it hates us.

We’re given lots of information about avoiding this enemy. We ignore much of it. That cannot be good. It must be bad. A chief offense relates to mask-wearing, a universally despised method of protection.

I’d like to propose a new word for our dictionaries. That word is undernose. I’m sure you can easily figure out what it refers to, especially if you’ve left your home at all in the past two years or so.

Undernose is the latest style in attire. I’ve personally seen it in all its charmless vigor in places as disparate as Israel and the New York metro area. But I’ve also seen it on television and in newspapers, and just about anywhere. I firmly believe that the style is truly international and has caught on like, like? Like? Like wild covid!

Yesterday, for example, the old man and I, his also-old wife, were on a really big plane, operated by United Airlines, that flies between Tel Aviv and Newark, or, fancier, between TLV and EWR. We all know that United touts a strict policy of mask wearing, except during meals. This is warranted by the human need to eat, particularly on flights lasting 12 hours and 1 minute. Those who thought they were beating the admonition managed to make a meal last for many, many hours by taking baby bites or merely leaving a piece of food resting in front of them, somewhere near their mouths.

I’m not here to defend their ingenuity, but merely to tell them they shouldn’t have bothered. Only under duress, or due to complaints of unfriendly curmudgeons like me, will a United crew member actually deal with the issue and instruct the passenger to put on a mask. There were many unmasked people in our cabin, thankfully sitting somewhat distant from us. But, then again, can’t these tiny viruses fly? I know they can. I know they can. But short of jumping out of the plane window I was impotent. And tired of embarrassing the very law-abiding noncombatant husband with whom I shared row 8.

Lest you think you’re safe as long as you’re not flying, think again, and again, and again. Government health agencies, both in both Israel and in the United States, have long stressed the urgent need to wear masks, masks that cover the mouths and noses of every one of us past infancy. The creative non-compliance is remarkable. This is clearly advice meant to be ignored. It’s gender neutral, ignorant of age and class, and seems designed to unify the professor and the bum, the rich man and the poor, and, truly, honestly, just about everyone in between.

Friends, I understand. I hate to wear a mask. It fogs my glasses. It hurts my ears. It detracts from my vision, making me feel like I’m falling. It’s criminally uncomfortable, and the thought of wearing it for 12 hours and 1 minute aloft, and hours before, and hours after, makes me pretty desirous of being non-compliant. I hasten to tell you that I’m not. I wear it religiously, which is the deliberate word I choose to use amongst my fellow tribe members.

I view it as a religious obligation, just as much as observing the laws of kashrut and Shabbat, to protect my fellow members of humanity, my family and me, myself, by fulfilling the mitzvah of mask wearing. Proper mask wearing.

Proper mask wearing means undernose doesn’t cut it. You see them all the time. Religious people. Non-religious people. Jews and others. Their masks are in their pockets. Their masks are around their necks. Their masks are on their foreheads. Their masks cover their mouths but not their noses. Those are the members of the undernose club. They regard themselves as moral. They are not. They endanger all of us, including themselves. They are clearly no better than the Jerusalem waitress who told me a few days ago that masks were no longer required and she didn’t have one.

I’ve been in medical settings where they test for covid before travel. Obviously I should not see undernoses in such a place. I do. I have. I don’t understand.

I’ve been in supermarkets and take-out food stores and gas stations and pharmacies and any number of places which are really hard to avoid. The undernoses predominate. They are everywhere. They are joined in their ubiquity by the complete non-maskers, who are no worse than the undernoses but who apparently enjoy that feeling of flaunting the rules. Let’s be honest, the undernoses are not better than the flaunters. They may feel they are, but they are not.

And while I think you’ve got the undernose message, what do you think about the anti-vaxxers? Are they better or worse than the undernoses? Their feeble excuses are deadly! Their lack of accountability has prolonged the pandemic and is responsible for many deaths. Perhaps they should be treated like the lepers they are! Who among us hasn’t been vaccinated for myriad diseases, without objection? Hating to be paranoid, I blame this on the politics of today, politics that, with great ignorance, announce a kinship with the far right by refusing to be vaccinated. This is insanity, clear and simple.

If you are an undernose, please buy masks that will pinch your nose so that the mask cannot slip to an ineffective position. Please. If that’s how you have worn your mask, you are clearly embarrassing yourself. Don’t be a fool.

If you are not vaccinated, please do not listen to me. I’m no medically trained person. Please listen to the erudite, intelligent doctors among us, people like Dr. Wen, Dr. Fauci, Dr Sha, Dr. Walensky, and all the others whose advice should not be ignored. Do it for the world.

It’s good for the Jews.

Rosanne Skopp of West Orange is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of 14, and great-grandmother of three. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. She is a lifelong blogger, writing blogs before anyone knew what a blog was!

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