I was the object of scorn at two different times in the same day last week for completely opposite actions.
As we returned from vacationing in North Carolina, we stopped at a gas station in Virginia. After a week of mask-free living, I’d forgotten Virginia still required those cloth virus-catchers over your mouth and nose.
You would’ve thought I’d kicked a puppy as the eyes turned to me as I walked in the door of the convenience store. Their glares burnt into me as I realized my faux pas and pulled my Cubs’ T-shirt up over my nose and mouth to go about my business.
A few hours later, we needed to use the restroom facilities while crossing West Virginia. As a man who learns my lessons, I grabbed my mask on the way into the building.
There, too, eyes seared into my conscience. Their hate toward me was obvious in the way they scoffed, with one man even asking why I was so afraid.
I’m fully vaccinated. By the rules currently in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I don’t need to wear a mask indoors or outdoors. Still, when I’m in a place that asks you to wear a mask, I wear a mask. When I’m in a place that doesn’t ask you to wear a mask, I don’t wear a mask.
I don’t want to get into a debate about the value of masks. My personal beliefs aren’t terribly important for the purposes of this column. What does matter is trying to respect the beliefs of those around you.
I want to respect the rules put in place by the people who own and operate various businesses. I don’t want to get into a debate with them, any more than I want to debate people who ask you to take your shoes off when you enter their home or the change in speed limit from 55 to 50 when you approach my subdivision.
Masked doesn’t mean you’re afraid. Unmasked doesn’t mean a disregard for those around you. Sometimes you’re just trying to play by the rules posted on the door as you walk into a building.
My employer hasn’t changed its mask rules, even though the state did. That’s its right as a private employer. That’s why I wear a mask at work when working with other people, including readers who stop by the office to talk. I’m not geared up for a fight; I’m just trying to abide by the rules placed in front of me.
There are times and places to debate rules and decisions you don’t agree with. I just don’t think the check-out line at a fast-food restaurant or grocery store is that place, in the same way I’ve never felt the urge to fight over “no shirts, no shoes, no service.”
You can make your feelings known without being rude or offering glares. For instance, on our trip, we refused to eat anywhere that didn’t have its dining room open, to reward the places that have made that move. We economically rewarded places that shared our values. We avoided places that didn’t. That’s the economic way of letting your voice be heard, a couple bucks at a time.
Long-time readers of this column know I have a fairly simple code of conduct that gets me through most moments: Don’t be a jerk.
As we maneuver through these first days of a post-pandemic society, it’d be good if more people just tried to abide by that.