Saturday, August 15, 2020

In Defense of Saliva Soaked Rags

I wore a mask last week when I took the Harley out.  A short ride, with no stops.  In the midst of this pandemic, my wife and I are being careful.

Wearing the mask on the bike wasn’t so bad.  I’ve worn something similar in cold weather to keep my face warm.  It does cut down on the number of bugs you eat.  But I hated wearing the damn thing.

Hate is a strong word.  But it is the term that fits, in this case.  I hate wearing a mask.  It reminds me of a very ugly chapter of my life.

My mother ran off when I was eighteen months old, which is another tangled tale I’ll save for another time.  When I was five, my father remarried.  Within a year, it was obvious that my new stepmother had serious mental health issues.

Unfortunately, I became one of her fixations in her deranged world.  A specific manifestation of her illness was revealed when she became convinced that I emitted deadly “germs,” and had to be isolated for the safety of the family.  I was confined to my room for the next five years.  When I had to leave my room to go to school, I was required to wear a surgical mask as I walked to the door, and deposit it in the bag by the door, where it would await me until I returned from school.  I never left my room unmasked.

My breakfast was left in my room every morning.  Dinner time was a bit more complicated.  Once the family had gathered around the dining room table, I would be called.  Wearing my mask, I would walk into the kitchen, where my dinner was waiting on the counter, which was as far away from the table as the kitchen allowed.  I was required to drop my mask and eat as fast as possible, as I stood at the counter across the room from my family. When I had finished dinner, the mask was raised to again cover my face, as I slowly retreated back to my room.

Sometimes when there were no clean surgical masks, she would tie an old t-shirt around my face.  This made it difficult to breathe sometimes, but since I could not leave my room, any strenuous play was not an option anyway.

When I was eleven, I was sent to live with relatives.  The masks disappeared, although the memory of those saliva soaked rags will never go away.  My ride on the Harley, sixty years later, brought back that bitter taste, and the painful memory it contained.  I hate wearing a mask. 

Having said that, I recently read that as many as 40% of people infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 may have no symptoms. But when they talk, cough or sneeze, they can still spread the virus to others in the form of droplets in the air. The mask traps larger droplets.  So, wearing a mask does seem to prevent spreading the virus.  Everyone needs to mask up.

I hate wearing a mask.  But, if it will help stop the spread of this deadly virus, I’ll wear the damn thing.

J.

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