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Masked at the market

By Geoff Ritter
updated: 6/22/2020 6:14 AM

Once a means of concealment, the mask now reveals everything.

Honestly, I'm a guy trying to split the difference between thoughtful citizen humbled by a virus and level-headed consumer who's pretty sure the world isn't ending just yet.

That boils down to this: If a sign at your business door says a face covering is required or even strongly recommended to enter, I am prepared to congenially comply. If there is no such sign, I still might put on my trusty bandana, but I honestly might wing it depending on circumstance and the number of other people around. Right now, our state only requires face coverings in public in situations where social distancing is hard to maintain.

Which takes me to the produce section of an unnamed local grocer on a recent Tuesday evening. Despite a sign requiring masks, customers roamed freely with and without coverings. Large, proud men shaped vaguely like their trucks in the parking lot walked purposefully down the frozen food aisle with their graying goatees fully exposed -- proud, conscientiously objecting Americans who, in most cases, didn't quite seem confident enough in their decision to actually look anyone in the eye.

In the dairy section, it was the opposite on display as meek, masked seniors shirked around corners and harried housewives glanced worriedly at the floor, unsure they followed the arrow in the proper direction. Presiding over this retail hellscape, for the moment, was the stock boy, stacking cereal on the end display with a mask slouched comfortably under his chin, possibly trapped entirely by his stringy web of a beard.

Even in my frustration, I couldn't entirely blame him or his coworkers. This new paradigm has placed them in the unenviable position of policing our new social order.

If the people shopping for groceries are anything like the people brawling about global health conspiracies on Facebook, any move here could be your last.

Still, someone clearly needed to take charge of this scene. If they are going to post about the masks being required, someone needs to do something about it. I'm talking about you, guys in the upstairs room with the security monitors. Don't hide behind the kid.

I paid for my things and headed out of the store, eager to tear off my bandana as soon as I stepped into the parking lot. A young couple passed, strapping on masks as they prepared to enter the store. An older man walked mask-less behind them, conspicuously ignoring the "masks required" sign.

Far from hiding things, masks these day reveal quite a bit.

And as I drove away, I wondered if that sign at the entrance was just another mask, meant to conceal those who don't care quite as much as they might have us think.

Just a thought. On to my next errand -- mask at the ready.

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