By Neele Völker
Covid numbers are at an all-time low these days and the public is almost back to its regular schedule and lifestyle. This should mean that people are trying everything to keep their newly regained freedom, including wearing medical masks correctly. But especially in the last couple of weeks people act like the pandemic is over. They run their errands without masks and cramp themselves into cafés and restaurants without any safety measurements. Every sense of caution and responsibility is thrown overboard. This essay will explain why that caution and responsibility should be securely stretched over your nose and mouth.
Of course, there were people throughout the entire pandemic who were unable to locate where their nose is and therefore only covered their mouth or people who thought that the mask would look best covering their double chin, since all the gyms were closed at the time. But these days the numbers of people who deem masks as unnecessary is increasing immensely. I work at a gas station. At least five customers per hour fail to wear masks correctly or wear the wrong kind. This varies from wearing the mask that was lying on the floor of their car for the last couple of months to wearing their child´s tiny mask, barely covering their nose, just because it was the first one, they grabbed. On average I encounter at least two customers per hour who do not bother to wear any kind of mask.
Most of the time, people scowl or give me a wounded look when I ask them to put on a mask.
They “simply forgot to put it on”, “have 10 in their car/purse/jacket/jeans etc.” or “work in the medical field and usually always wear a mask”. It is not ideal but at least these types of customers promise that they will wear a proper mask the next time. The issue is with customers who start arguing with you when there is no place to argue. The wearing of medical masks is still mandatory for stores, and even though you cannot do your entire grocery shopping at a gas station it is still considered a store. The worst kind of customer is the kind that tries to argue with the staff about things that cannot be changed. Next to the increasing gas prices the second thing I get yelled at about the most at work is the requirement to wear a mask.
Last week I asked a man in his fifties if it was possible for him to wear a mask the next time he enters the store. I purposely ask this question at the end of each encounter because I do not like the death glares I would receive while my card reader is processing their payment. He happily told me that masks are not mandatory anymore. I immediately told him that this is not true, and after three minutes of arguing he stormed of yelling that I should “go fuck off and stop bothering him with my stupid rules and weird restrictions of his freedom.” I remember barely keeping myself from punching the glass shield in front of me after this encounter. Minimum wage is not nearly enough to deal with this type of customer.
People have always been extremely ignorant, even more so during this pandemic. People who were fortunate enough to receive the vaccine are even more likely to forget their masks and then joyfully proclaim that “one shall not worry since they are fully vaccinated” which in theory is great, I was and am happy for everyone who received the vaccine, but this does not mean that you cannot transfer the virus onto another person who might not be vaccinated. It is great that people who are compromised by their age and or health are a priority when it comes to the vaccine, but these people need to realise that this is a privilege and people who work in mini jobs as for example gas station workers or waiters are not able to get the vaccine just yet, due to them being a lesser priority group.
I was lucky to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine two weeks ago and not once in these two weeks did I even consider not wearing my mask. I know that the vaccine is a great tool to prevent the spread of covid but at this current state the vaccine is nothing without measurements like wearing masks and social distancing.
Of course, the vaccine does give some sort of comfort and safety, but one needs to remember that currently only twenty-eight percent of our entire country have received their complete dosage. For me this means that, yes, I can worry a bit less about Covid and the fear of endangering my family, but it is also my responsibility to keep following the safety instruction to help others protect their loved ones. And this is why one should wear a mask.