When I was just a little kid, I liked wearing masks.
It was the 1980s, at the height of the ninja craze. I’d watch Enter the Ninja with my friends, then I’d grab my sword (stick) and throwing stars (made out of paper), and spend the rest of the day skulking in shadows and assassinating other ninjas (trees).
Those were good times, but eventually, I had to leave the mask wearing behind. It’s cute when you’re eight years old. It’s disturbing when you’re 18.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has given me an opportunity to be an adult and wear a mask without having to plot a bank/liquor store robbery.
Just last week, I donned my cloth face mask and followed my wife into a local grocery store. While she shopped, I darted from place to place, stalking her through the aisles.
I hid behind the Doritos. No, wait! I ducked behind a stack of Diet Coke. She never saw me until it was too late, and the bucket of ice cream was already in the buggy.
So much fun, and I wonder why more people aren’t taking advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime chance.
Grabbing takeout from a burger and fries place last weekend, I did a quick count of masks. There were 27 people in the joint and my wife and I were the only ones covering our faces.
We wear masks because she has multiple sclerosis, which puts her in the “could die if you get COVID” category. We try to reduce our potential exposure as much as possible while still living life, but we are very much in the minority everywhere we go.
Why is that? Individually, we’re all being asked to do just two things during the pandemic: Wear a mask and don’t get all up in anybody else’s space.
Both should be easy enough. I get that some people may not be able to wear a mask for medical reasons related to breathing, but for the rest of us, is there really a good reason not to?
Maybe it’s a comfort thing, and I can understand that, because one does get heated wearing a mask. But it shouldn’t be a deal breaker to wear one for a half hour in a store if it’ll help keep those COVID numbers down so stores can stay open, should it?
Maybe it’s a vanity thing? While many people may be reluctant to cover up their faces, people cheer wildly when I conceal my ugly mug, so this isn’t something I can relate to.
But is looking good a good enough reason to risk prolonging a pandemic? And if it’s more about being embarrassed or “looking silly,” think about how much easier it would be if everyone wore a mask.
I tell my children, “Don’t care about what other people think of you,” and I’ll walk the walk on that.
Maybe people think I look goofy in my space mask, with all its stars and planets and stuff, but I don’t care.
It doesn’t hurt me in any way, and even if it doesn’t make a difference in the spread of COVID-19, it might make one of my fellow humans feel a little safer standing close to me in public.
So I’m an unapologetic space ninja doing my thing.
If it’s a “nobody’s going to tell me what to do, and you people are all sheep” type of thing, I don’t know what to say.
If you hate the government, OK. If you distrust science, whatever. But even if wearing a mask is, in fact, completely useless, it shows that you are a compassionate person who cares about the people around you, and you are willing to do your part to help protect them.
And if you can have a little fun with it in the process, what’s the harm?
Eric Welsh is a reporter with Black Press Media.