Life behind the masks
Sep 09, 2020 | 215 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Emily Gallagher is a neighborhood activist and organizer in Greenpoint.
Emily Gallagher is a neighborhood activist and organizer in Greenpoint.
The other night my partner and I came home from a walk and, as usual, removed our masks and hung them on the hook by the door. I sighed because I am very bored of my mask rotation.

Masks have established the same conundrum as winter coats, namely that when you have to wear something every day, everywhere, it's easy to get very bored with them. My solution was to jump onto Etsy and order a few new ones so that I could mix things up.

I chose ones with prints from an artist that I like, while my partner chose a three-pack featuring the logo of the band Slayer.

However, the next afternoon we were reminded that not everyone has the same resolution to mask fatigue that we do. Our neighbors hosted a barbecue and had about 25 people gathered in their front yard.

These parties happen every day of every weekend at this house on our street, and as usual not one person was wearing a mask.

As we were approaching the house on the way to our own, my partner paused and said, "I hate walking by this house." We both stood with anxiety at the end of the block knowing that we had to walk by. It felt really unfair.

I recently watched a frontline medic’s short video about how COVID spreads and examples of cases from the last year. The doctor said that whenever we speak or breathe, sneeze, cough or laugh, we are sending a universe of droplets out into the air around us.

The more people there are, the more the droplets are amplified. This is why large, mask-less crowds are a problem, as the droplets spread from person to person. Most recently, there were four deaths and 147 cases of COVID-19 linked to a wedding in Maine wedding.

Most of these cases came in contact with someone who went to the wedding who was carrying the disease, but not exhibiting symptoms. The four deaths were people who weren’t at the wedding at all.

The decisions of the guests to attend made them spreaders, it did not make them victims. Their victims were innocent and did not participate in the dangerous activity. The radius of impact from this wedding is now over 100 miles wide.

Some days I feel very depressed about COVID. So much death, so much illness and life-altering situations. And then, the itchy bother of so many pleasures of life being forbidden - like a party.

But I feel extremely resentful that my neighbor can't stand the boredom and has decided to put us all at risk so very casually. It's also additionally hard because it feels very uncomfortable to broach the issue.

Our attitude as Americans often means that we don't listen with compassion when others encroach on what we perceive as our freedom, and our system for coping with coronavirus is not refined.

If you want to anonymously report a COVID party, you have to call 911. That feels too big and too dangerous to do to a neighbor.

I wish we could find a way to mutually agree to protect each other. There is nothing better, for me, to look around and see that everyone I'm passing by is wearing a mask. It feels like they are respecting my life and my right to exist.

And I am doing the same by wearing a mask, too. When people are mask-less, I take it personally. Maybe we all should.

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