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Someone Finally Gave Me Crap About Going Maskless

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Despite the New York state mask mandate, I’ve refused to go back to masking. I’ve been vaccinated—and the only reason I did so was that I was assured that I’d be able to ditch the mask-wearing. I’m so over this pandemic it’s not even funny.

Luckily, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul put the onus on counties to enforce her ridiculous mandate, and most counties refused to waste resources doing so. As a result, I’ve received virtually no resistance from any public place I’ve patronized—save for one incident at a pharmacy the first week the mandate was in place when a woman at a register “informed” me about the mandate. When I told her that the mandate wasn’t being enforced in the county, she claimed that it actually was. Of course, she was wrong. But after agreeing to disagree, she proceeded to ring up my items, and that was that.

Related: The New York Mask Mandate Is a Spectacular Failure

That was about three weeks ago, and my public masklessness has continued without incident. I’ve honestly expected more pushback, but nowhere I’ve gone has been enforcing the mandate. They have signs posted, but I’ve never been asked to mask up or leave—if I ever was, I’d go and take my money elsewhere.

Another surprise is the lack of reaction from other customers. Despite the lack of enforcement, about 85 to 90% of people are wearing masks now. I guess if it makes them feel better, fine. But we’ve all seen a viral video or two of mask shamers making scenes when they see someone going maskless in public. While businesses aren’t going to waste resources policing mask-wearing, there are plenty of religious Covidians ready to pounce with their holier-than-thou rhetoric taken verbatim from MSNBC, CNN, or the Biden administration.

And I finally got pestered by one today.

I was killing time at the supermarket while my dog was being groomed, and when I found my lane, an older gentleman in front of me gave me an annoyed look before finally saying, “Where’s your mask, dude?”

After weeks of no issues, I was, to be honest, a little taken aback by the comment, but I nevertheless looked forward to seeing how this would play out. Would he cause a scene? How would he react to the facts I would throw in his masked face?

“I don’t have one,” I told him. I expected him to get angry, to shout about how masks are “mandatory” in New York State and yada, yada, yada. He didn’t shout, but he pointed out that there were masks available at the entrance in a somewhat irritated voice. These would be the same store-bought masks that even Dr. Fauci pointed out won’t protect you from COVID. “The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out [the] virus, which is small enough to pass through the material,” Fauci said back in February of 2020.

So I tried to bait him a bit by telling him, “That’s okay, those masks don’t really do anything anyway.” I was hoping he’d respond by arguing that they work and all that, but he simply mumbled something I couldn’t hear through his mask and walked off to another aisle under the pretext of looking at the magazines on the rack. Perhaps he was trying to be socially distant, or maybe he simply chose not to escalate the situation, but after that, nothing happened.

I was prepared to explain how studies have undermined mask mandates because the most common masks do little to filter aerosols. Meanwhile, blue states with strict COVID restrictions lead the nation in COVID cases. Why is that? I was admittedly disappointed when the man decided to disengage. He could have learned something.

I suspect that the recent surge in cases due to the omicron variant is the reason for the incident, and I also suspect that this won’t be the last time it happens.