We made it through the lockdown. Technically, we survived the EECQ, ECQ, MECQ, and GCQ, and in a few days we should waltz through the MGCQ, too. Woohoo! And, in spite of the continuing increase in COVID19 cases, people are going back to work, the malls are open, and the roads are once again choked with traffic. We now need to learn to navigate through BAU BIM—business as usual but in masks.
It’s not as easy as you might think because with everybody’s faces half-covered, we’ve lost most of the visual cues that help us understand the people we deal with. Eyes may be windows to someone’s soul, but smiles, sneers and snorts say much more than winks and blinks, don’t you think? A scrunched up nose, flaring nostrils, a tongue thrust out or hanging loose, a mouth agape, lips pursed—all these are hidden from view. What do we do? What do we do?
Maybe we can figure out who a person is and what he or she is thinking by looking at the mask he or she is wearing. Hmm.
A designer mask, for example. LV PPE or an Hermés mask that matches the Birkin. Surely, this person is proclaiming to the world that she is some politician’s mistress. Or we can more generously deduce that she is just a nouveau riche. Why? What masks do the truly rich wear? None. They stay home. Their surrogates go malling for them. Besides, they do not lack for human interaction because they can Zoom unlimitedly, infinitely, without having to log in again every 40 minutes.
Contrast this with a cloth mask. The user is obviously a cheapskate because his mask is washable, reusable (eek). Ok, ok. It might be a branded company-issued mask or a statement mask. Still, cheap.
What does a snugly fitting hi-tech mask say about its wearer? Here is a man who spent a lot of time and money searching for the perfect mask. He must have OCD. Which I guess is not a bad thing to have in a world where we are being assaulted by microscopic, possibly airborne enemies. On the other hand, by casually using something that a front liner badly needs, he is also telling everyone that he believes his life matters more.
How about the standard blue rectangular medical mask? Well, if it looks like an itty bitty string bikini in that it covers the essential parts but leaves the cheeks exposed (like mine), then that person is a) obese; b) unable to resist any offer bundled with crispy pata; and c) avoiding any stress that might increase his heart rate or blood pressure (like me).
Finally, we come to the red bandana, the black balaclava, and the filthy neck warmer stretched up to the nose. Who wears these mask substitutes? Holdaper. Basurero. And that technician who came to fix the PLDT Fibr, not 24 hours or 48 hours, but over one week after we lost our internet connection, only to take one look underneath our modem and declare that he cannot fix it because the policy is to let other technicians learn how to repair “inside the box” problems. Huh? And here I am, trying to avoid stress . . .
We can tell so much from the masks people wear. It’s really very simple. Almost as simple as judging people on the basis of the color of their skin. Uhhh, no. That can’t be right.
I take it all back. As presidential spokesmen around the world have said, “Joke lang.”
How do we really get to know people in this time of masks and social distancing? The better policy would be to first heed the classic Melanism: Do not judge my brother. He is not a book.
Then maybe, before we rush to any conclusions about each other, let’s talk.