Worth a Thousand Words: Information overload?

Last weekend was the first time I have needed to do grocery shopping since the mask mandate was lifted back on May 14. I must say it was an interesting experience. 

I don’t know if I was just projecting my own delight in not having to don any sort of face covering, but it just seemed like the atmosphere was much lighter. People were making eye contact more often, and naturally without anything shielding them, their smiles were very evident.

Back at the beginning of the mandate, I openly observed how people didn’t seem to be looking directly at one another. I noticed how many people (including myself) appeared to be looking at other areas of peoples’ bodies, almost like they didn’t want to fixate on the mask. My amateur psychological assumption was people were avoiding looking at the masks in an attempt to keep from being reminded about the plight we were in. My other guess was that people typically take social cues from a persons mouth, so without that, they had to find another indicator.

That’s not to say nobody paid attention to others’ masks. Since all of mine had some sort of design on them (surprise, surprise, pretty much all sports-themed) I did get a few conversations started around whomevers’ logo was emblazoned across my face.

I also think that when wearing a mask, people just didn’t seem to be as friendly. I’m not saying people were rude or looked angry. Rather, its a little like a dog having to wait in the car for their owners to return. While they can certainly behave friendly to anyone else, there always seems to be hint that they feel cooped up and restrained, maybe even a little on the miserable side.

I don’t know of a single person who actually liked wearing a mask. Sure, they might take pride in doing their part to fight the pandemic. But in a completely honest moment, I would be willing to bet that if there was definitively no reason to wear one, not a single person would continue to do so.

That leads me to another observation. While a vast majority of people have discarded their masks, I’ve seen a surprising number who still put one on. Even with all the hoopla over the dangers of wearing one while working out, I still see a few student athletes wearing one.

And that’s perfectly fine by me. I’m sure every single person has their reasons for doing so. Much like you don’t see anyone scoffing at someone lathering up with sunscreen even on a cloudy day, everybody has their own level of comfort. More importantly, as long as they aren’t openly condemning me for going with less protection, their actions certainly aren’t doing me any harm.

Sadly, not everyone thinks that way. They just can’t help but be judgmental. And what’s worse, we seem to have gotten so used to that we feel we have to justify our actions. I’ve heard multiple people quickly, and without prompting, explain why they were still wearing a mask.

After all, as over-used as the expression “you be you” has become, it really is appropriate, especially in these times of frequent upheaval.

BILL STICKELS III is editor of the Isanti-Chisago County Star. He can be reached at 763-689-1181 ext. 107 or editor@countystar.com. 

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