A few days ago, I entered a grocery store without wearing a mask. There was a sign announcing masks were required in the store and cautioning everyone to maintain social distancing.
I saw the signs, read them, and went into the store without a mask anyway. Everyone else — employees, customers — was wearing a mask. But not me.
Unfortunately, I had been sent to the store for three items, of which I could only remember one for certain and possibly the second. The third was a completely mystery. In the four minutes it took to get to the store, it had slipped my mind.
What’s that? I should make a list? My wife gave me a list, but I misplaced it at home while looking for my keys.
So I was in the store for less than a minute when an older female shopper pointed at my face and then at her mask.
Then I was approached by a store employee who said, “Sir, we apologize, but you need to wear a mask in the store. If you don’t have one, we can provide one for ...”
OK, decision making time, like one of those story problems from elementary school. Remember them?
Question • “If Bobby has three friends and eight illegal fireworks to possibly share, how many opportunities to set a field on fire will each person get?”
Answer • “None. Bobby has eight opportunities to set the field on fire all by himself. The others can go find their own.”
Back to the store. I had a choice to make. Confronted with the issue of wearing a mask, I could:
- Refuse to wear a mask and go about shopping anyway.
- Leave the store in a huff, vowing never to return.
- Argue with the employee over her right to require me to wear a mask, and the “real” science behind the virus.
- Completely lose my #$%@ and begin screaming about my constitutional right to run about mask-free, and threatening physical violence against anyone who even looked at me funny.
- Apologize for overlooking the mask thing. Remove my mask from my pocket and put it on like I would have in the first place if I hadn’t been distracted by trying to remember “parmesan cheese.”
I went with Option E. Mind you, I was tempted to tell the manager, “It’s OK, ma’am. I already have the coronavirus.”
It seemed an unconventional reply, and I was curious as to how they would handle it. But then I remembered something really important — the highly annoyed look my wife adopts when I misbehave.
Also, I know the local cops by name. Worse, they know me. There’s no way I wanted to spend the next 14 days quarantined inside a rusty gym locker in the police department’s sun-exposed storage lot.
I don’t like wearing the COVID-coverup, but I understand the rationale behind it. Besides, businesses have a right to determine these guidelines and to expect their customers — including the ones like me — to abide by them.
Life is strange enough right now without getting into a yelling match about the juxtaposition of the U.S. Constitution, medical science and personal ego.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.