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I think one of the places where a face mask bothers you the most is inside an airplane. The flight attendants have become like sanitary policemen, and it’s so annoying! Say when it’s a long flight, like one I took two days ago, ten hours long. After so many hours of wearing the mask, you already feel like it’s slicing your ear. And who takes responsibility for that?
And it’s so annoying because it’s so absurd. The rigidity is extreme until they hand out what they call food and then they are lax. Then you take off your mask, you try to wolf down the reheated chicken you were given, some people cough and no one cares. Ten minutes go by, and COVID, which apparently also had time for recreation, came back. Bring back the masks. The flight attendant-turned-sanitary-policewoman checks and scolds anyone who is not wearing a muzzle.
On a ten-hour flight, after ninety minutes, no one respects the mask anymore. At this point, nobody cares anymore. They all join in because they want to avoid a confrontation, but nobody cares, because it is completely absurd. Everybody knows that a mask that you take off to eat and is probably worn improperly is not going to protect you from anything, because besides there is nothing serious that you should protect yourself from.
I speak of a flight as an example of this absurdity, but this stupidity is present in every place. Now every time you go to a restaurant, you are required to wear a mask between the aisles, but when you sit down to eat, you can take it off. As if the virus only attacks at a certain height. You feel like a giant imbecile, and you are coupled with the bravado of the waiter who for the first time in his life feels he has some authority and then tells people that they should put it on their face to protect themselves from other people, as if that were his responsibility.
A friend of mine in Barcelona was telling me that the other day the security guard of a nightclub demanded the mask from people when they entered the bar, but no sooner did they turn their backs that they all took them off, put them in their pockets and the masks never came back out. And that, of course, the guard knew.
It is required to enter a store and some even ask for a vaccination card. But outside the store, everyone takes it off and nobody cares. It is required to enter movie theaters, but when the movie starts nobody has it on because everyone is stuffing themselves with popcorn and Coca-Cola. If a person is serving you in, let’s say, a bank, you have to put it on, but if there’s food involved, it’s gone!
Two days ago I went to a book presentation in Madrid. At the door was, of course, the face mask guard. The striking thing is that, upon entering, the only ones who did not have the mask were the author and the presenter on the stage, they then talked closely to each other and over the audience.
Today, it is absurd that we continue to submit to being told when and where to use the mask, which clearly serves no purpose. And it is useless because the vaccine exists and if you are pro-vaccine, as I am, you must be the first to be convinced that the mask is useless.
It is an encouragement to leave a frantic country, full of hysterical and docile people who cling to the mask like a seat belt, and enter a free country, where people cling, rather, to normalcy. The contrast is sometimes so immediate and so obvious that it is unsettling. When you are in a city in Spain, it is desperate, but within a couple of hours you drive into, say, Andorra, and absolutely no one has a mask on. The same happens if you go to Hungary or to one of those countries where people don’t think about idiocies anymore.
The mask is useless, it never prevented the virus and now there is nothing to prevent it because the virus is almost not causing any deaths. For now, it is not necessary to use it when it is not asked for and when it is asked for, surely the advisable thing to do is not to obey, but to make a fuss. At least get on the store manager’s nerves, who thinks he is more powerful than any bureaucrat, as useless as the masks.
Orlando Avendaño is the co-editor-in-chief of El American. He is a Venezuelan journalist and has studies in the History of Venezuela. He is the author of the book Days of submission // Orlando Avendaño es el co-editor en Jefe de El American. Es periodista venezolano y cuenta con estudios en Historia de Venezuela. Es autor del libro Días de sumisión.