Friday, December 11, 2020

The Many Different Kind Of Maskers: What Your Mask Says About You

When people first started wearing masks in response to Covid-19, they all looked the same to me. But the longer it’s gone on, the more I notice there are many different kinds of mask wearers. They say the eyes are the window to the soul, but I can’t help thinking the way you wear your mask tells us a lot about you, too. Below are some of the many different types of mask-wearers I’ve encountered:

 The Noser: Apparently, the mask doesn’t make it all the way up to their nose. Or perhaps they are mouth breathers and aren’t aware that noses are used for breathing. I’m tempted to carry around a permanent marker and dot every exposed nose I see.

 The Chin Strapper: The number one way to stop the spread of a virus, according to them, is to cover up your chin. I believe they’ve had a life-long discomfort of airing their chins in public and have been looking for an excuse to don chinderwear.

 Hammockers: The mask is worn distanced from the face. In some cases, I have seen the straps attached to the glasses, allowing them to hang directly under their mouths. Apparently the theory is that Covid is very heavy and will fall from your mouth directly into the awaiting mask.

 Leaners: They wear a mask normally, but then they lean in when they want to tell you something and lower their mask to make sure you hear them.

 The Accessorizer: One who believes the purpose of the mask is not primarily to prevent the spread of a disease but to look good with whatever they’re wearing.

 The Neckbracer: Whatever it is they’re wearing as a mask makes them look like they’re waiting for the whiplash case to go to trial. This never even makes it as far as the chin, but merely sits around the neck.

 The NeckRomancer: Same as the Neckbracer but it is brought up over the nose. It reminds one of someone wearing a turtle neck to hide their hickies.

 Trick Or Treaters: Those who use a global pandemic as an excuse to dress in costume. Sometimes it’s just a giant smile that covers the mouth chin and nose, sometimes it covers the whole head like a ski mask.

 The Desperado: They’re rocking either the 19th Century bank thief or the person in the 21st Century that holds up a pharmacy to get their fentanyl fix look.

 The Patriot: They want to show how American they are by wearing faded or black and white flags on their buffs. They’ve lost their battle to not wear a mask, but they’re still representing their rebellious patriotism by disrespecting the flag.

 The Toucher: The guy who just can’t stop touching/adjusting his mask. In a matter of thirty seconds, you’ll see every part of his face that’s supposed to be covered, and he’ll touch every square inch of it with hands that like to touch everything else as much as his face.

 The Scrub Nurse: Looks like they’ve just stepped out of the E.R. after a grueling round of surgeries. The mask is in tatters, but damn if it’s not N95.

 Count Dracula: He forgot his mask and is self-conscious about it, so he’ll use his jacket to cover the lower part of his face while he talks to you.

 The Muzzled Dog: Acts as if they are being punished by being made to wear the mask and all joy has been sucked from their lives.

 The Hermit: The mask has made them hypersensitive to the risk of human contact, and it has made them unwilling to interact with anyone.

 The Streaker: This person has forgotten their mask and feels embarrassed.

 The Flasher: This person does not feel embarrassed that they don’t have their mask on.

 The Complainer: You can see them standing around in public places not wearing a mask talking to other people not wearing masks, saying how f-ed up it is that their aunt is sick in the hospital from Covid and isn’t allowed visitors. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Traveler And The Castle (An Allegorical Free Short Story)

  There was a traveler whose journeys caused him to walk the face of the earth. He had wandered many miles one day until he saw in the distance a mighty castle. Its walls were immense, its towers clawed at the sky. And as he approached it, a mist arose about him so that he felt there was some enchantment upon the castle. He wandered through the mist until he was so close to it that the castle again appeared to his sight. He stopped and stared at the impenetrable wall that stood on the other side of a moat, and when he heard a voice speak to him from the wall, he knew that the castle was indeed enchanted, for it was the wall itself that spoke

 “WE…are the Republicans,” cried the voice. “WE guard our mighty nation against outsiders. WE stand firm against any who would attack us. We keep safe all those who belong here. We maintain the traditions that allow our kingdom to endure.”

 “Indeed,” said the traveler. “I have never seen walls so impressive before, neither so deep nor so tall. And yet I notice that there are many who live outside your walls. Those who grow the food, those who build the roads that I have walked upon, those who tend to the animals, they all live outside of your mighty protection. A stranger such as myself might be led to believe that it is not the whole of the kingdom you protect but merely the royalty who live in luxury inside the castle, along with all the wealth that they have managed to hoard.”

 “If it were not for the royalty, there would be no kingdom,” said the wall. “And the wealth belongs to all. It just needs to be kept safe from those who would steal it, and from those who do not properly know how to manage it. But should we be attacked by other nations, we would allow the lesser folk to find sanctuary within us. We serve and love all who belong to our kingdom.”

 “Perhaps if the noblemen spent less on walls they might be able to better love the people who grow their food, make their clothes, tend their animals. And as for protecting those who live outside your wall in times of war, I’m inclined to believe that you send them out to fight those wars instead.”

The wall uttered indignant responses to the traveler, full of the weight and confidence one would expect from such a sturdy and immovable edifice. But the traveler was distracted by a light laughter like the sound of running water that slowly grew louder until it drowned out the pontifications of the wall.

 “Well said, traveler,” came a voice from below. “Unlike the wall, we do not fear those who come from afar but welcome them. We are well aware of what it is the wall protects, though it claims it stands for everyone.”

 The traveler looked down and saw that the voice seemed to come from the dancing waters that were in front of him.

 “And who might you be?” asked the traveler.

 “We are the Democrats,” said the ethereal voice, gaily, “and we are nothing like the Republicans.”

 “I can see that,” said the traveler. “You are the very opposite of a wall of stone. IT stands tall, while you modestly do not even quite rise to the height of the ground. IT is hard and imposing, while you are light and yielding and non-threatening.”

 “Yes,” said the laughing ripples, quite pleased with themselves, “nothing like Republicans at all.

 “And yet I cannot help but see that you serve the same purpose as they,” said the traveler. “You too circle the castle. You too protect those elite few on the inside rather than protecting the entirety of the kingdom. You too stand between the few and the many.”

 The waters roiled in displeasure, spilling over onto the traveler’s boots. But the traveler seemed not to notice, and continued:

 “And while at first glance there seems to be nothing threatening in your waters, if I look carefully I can see dangerous creatures swimming in your depths. Your purpose is not different than that of the Republicans, the only difference is that it is not so obvious.”

 The once-placid waters now became positively agitated, as though unseen creatures were swarming in menace below. The traveler waited, expecting a response. And soon a voice spoke, but it did not come from below him at his feet but rather from above.

 “What right do you have to speak such blasphemy?” said a voice full of authority and certainty.

 “I speak only of what I plainly see,” said the traveler. Looking up he beheld the source from which the voice came, the lofty towers that stood above him. “I mean no disrespect, but I am quite used to speaking frankly and see no reason why I should not do so now.”

 “Things are not always as they seem,” said the voice from above. “That is why we are here to explain the truth to those below, who have not the background to discern truth from lies.”

 “And who are you who can explain away what I can clearly see with my own eyes?”

 “We…,” said the voice, pausing for dramatic effect, “are the media. We sit above all so that we can report objectively the facts regardless of who it affects. Not only do we sit above the small lives of the ordinary people, our position gives us perspective you lack.”

 “And yet what I see is that those who claim to be supporting the people are clearly only protecting a few very privileged people. And not only are they only protecting the privileged few from outside attack, it seems like they are protecting them from the people themselves.”

 “You do not speak from wisdom. It is evident that you have been abroad and heard many strange stories from others who are hostile to our kingdom. Whether you know it or not, you are spreading dangerous ideas that will only hurt the people you say you care about. Leave it to us, the experts, to tell you how to see the truth. After all, we have a much better vantage point from up here. And we have direct access to those who rule this land, as well. We are in a position to see things as they are, not simply as they appear.”

 “That may be true,” said the traveler. “But how things appear is that you sit above others precisely because you see things in ways that benefit those who live within the castle. And you call out from your towers precisely the messages the royalty wants you to tell the people. And I suspect that should you cry out any but the official message of the royals, you would quickly be dragged from your lofty position and thrown outside the safety of the castle, and you would be replaced by someone who is willing to say exactly what the royalty wants them to say.”

 “Those are wicked words,” came the voice from tower. “It is clear that you have been traveling in strange lands and listening to the lies foreign leaders speak in order to weaken the trust of the people for their nobility, who only wish to do well for the people and the kingdom. It is best that you leave this land and never return.”

 “I am leaving now,” said the traveler. “But first I must tell you why I have come. I am here to tell you that from this day on the people outside your walls no longer have need of royalty or those who protect them and make their pronouncements. If you wish to speak to the people, you must come down from your towers to speak to them. And you must not merely speak to them but listen and respond to them as well. If you claim to protect the people, you must do more than defend the few who profit from their labor. Instead of forcing them to build walls and moats and towers, you must allow the people to build useful things for themselves. And you must give them time to do what they will. And you must cease your endless worrying pronouncements from your towers so that they have time to listen to their own thoughts.”

 “Begone, you spreader of lies!” and this time it was a chorus of voices coming from the towers, the moat, and the wall. The booming voice of the wall, which was once paternal, had now become threatening. The light and motherly voice of the waters was now shrill unto shrieking. And the academic voice that came from the tower, that before had sounded like a caring teacher, now spoke like a judge rendering a guilty verdict.

 “I have said my peace,” said the traveler. “I will go.”

 But the voices were not done. As he turned to go they shouted at his back. “We will never leave our castle,” they cried. “We are safe here. None can assail us. You are a fool!”

 At this, the traveler turned around.

 “Stay, then, in your castle. You will be safe there. The people will not attack you. The people are done with you. Keep your gold, which is worthless to the average person. Let it sit in your castle as it once sat in the tremendous tombs of the ancient leaders. It shall be reclaimed one day—just as the gold of the pharaohs was reclaimed—long after you and your kind have faded into history.”

 “The people need us!” cried the voices. “Other kingdoms will attack them and they will be destroyed without our protection.”

 “Yours is not the first kingdom I have visited,” said the traveler. “Other kingdoms will not attack the people of this one because the people of the other kingdoms no longer do the bidding of those who hide behind walls and moats and towers and send people to war. There is no longer need for castles, except as monuments to past ways.”

 The traveler turned again and the voices grew silent. It was an ominous silence, so complete that the traveler could hear the arrow whistling through the air before it pierced his back.

 It was a pointless act of violence, the traveler thought, for he had already spread his message throughout the kingdom before he came to warn those who lived within the castle. It was the last act of a desperate, dying mentality of hatred. As his consciousness faded from him the last thing he could hear was the deluded laughter and boasting of those who sat within their own tomb.

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