Mask report: You are not alone

Hello, everyone. I’m writing to let you know that it really is OK to wear a mask (in addition to being recommended).

My son and I made a couple the other day using old tea towels and the New York Times instructions. (I recommend using shoelaces for ties instead of fabric strips … live and learn.)

Don’t tell my guys, but I was not excited about wearing our creations. When I put mine on in the parking lot of the Fred Meyer store, I felt like a bandit. And a germaphobe. No one in the parking lot was wearing a mask.

That’s when I had Realization No. 1: No one can tell who you are when you’re wearing a mask, so it doesn’t matter if they think you’re weird. It’s like they think your mask-avatar is weird. Whatever.

Armed with that thought, I entered the store, watching for like-minded shoppers. No-mask, no-mask, no-mask … ugh … then, mask, mask, mask! Before long I was surrounded by people in masks! Medical masks, woodworking masks, fabric masks, bandannas folded into masks. I’m guessing 50 percent of people wore masks.

It was like a pop-up costume party — and by some miracle, I was in-the-know!

Soon, in the Produce department, I needed help and asked a (mask-free) clerk sorting vegetables: “Where is the fresh ginger?”

That’s when I had Realization No. 2: Masks block a lot of sound. “WHERE IS THE FRESH GINGER?” I asked.

“Oh, sorry,” she said, pointing the way.

As I went through the store, Realization No. 3 became clear: When you wear a mask, you stand out but you also become a little bit invisible. I got some doubletakes followed by quick gaze-aversions. As a former non-masker, I know it can feel a bit uncomfortable to make eye contact with a mask-wearer, because you can’t see the expression her mouth is making.

So I turned on my super-expressive eyes … but that felt weird. Pretty soon, I receded into a quiet shop, nodding at my masked brethren. (Funny thing: When they greeted me, I couldn’t hear what they were saying.)

There was one item I had to go to WinCo for, so I went on a second stop, wondering how grocery store cultures would differ. Would I find another pop-up party?

Again, maybe half the people wore masks, but at WinCo, we were asked to wait outside in line (6 feet apart, of course) until some shoppers left the store.

When my turn came, I blew through the store to get my fish … and then encountered the mother-of-all-checkout lines. It stretched from the front of the cavernous store to the back, into the freezer section. (Fortunately, if you have less than 15 items, you can breeze through self checkout.)

So that’s my report from a Sunday morning grocery shop in Vancouver, Washington.

Sending love to everyone — be safe, take good care … and don’t be afraid to mask up.

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