Unmasking the Virus: A Retail Diary of the Plague Years (Volume 10)

July 25, 2020

I’ve seen every conceivable kind of mask. I’ve seen hospital masks and gas masks and hockey masks. I’ve seen halloween masks and Disney masks and horror masks.

People are making their own masks, and they’re getting very creative with the prints. Floral, paisley, polka dot, striped. There are red masks to match red shoes. There are yellow masks that match yellow ties. A young girl came in the store yesterday, probably twelve years old, wearing a cat t-shirt and a cat mask with a pink nose and little whiskers on it.

Bandanas are popular for a certain kind of Texan. You know the type. Cowboy hat, boots, Wrangler jeans. They pretend they’re put out by the whole mask thing, but honestly, they seem absolutely giddy to be wearing their cowboy cosplay in public, and I’m happy for them.

A young gay man came in the other day with a mask that depicted Stevie Nicks as a Catholic saint. A WWII veteran had a mask in the pattern of the American flag. A teenager had a mask that said Black Lives Matter; her friend’s said I Can’t Breathe. My coworker has a mask with Anthony Fauci’s face all over it.

People wear plastic shields that resemble those worn by riot police. People wear black ninja masks with fancy breathing filters. People wear paper towels held in place by rubber bands.

Last week, a teenager walked in the store without a mask. When I mentioned our policy, he was horrified. Obviously, he had no ill intentions; he’d simply forgotten to bring his mask. He apologized profusely and went to his car. Five minutes later, he returned wearing a hooded sweatshirt, the hood up over his head and the draw string pulled so tight there was just a little puckered hole for him to see out of.

When I thanked an elderly couple for wearing masks, the woman turned toward me and said, “Yup. It’s a great time to be an ugly woman!” Her husband snorted and shook his head.

Someone wore a Freddy Krueger mask in the store. I pointed them toward the horror section. Darth Vader, Jason, and Ronald Regan have also made appearances.

My favorite mask story was from a coworker. A man walked in wearing a pair of expensive silk panties on his head. She’d never seen that particular face covering before, but his nose and mouth were completely shielded, so she didn’t object. With a straight face, he asked where we kept our Buddhist literature, and she directed him to the Eastern Philosophy section. He came back with a big pile of books, his face flushed, the silk panties slightly askew. “I love this place!” he declared.

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