Colm O'Regan: Are we doing the masks thing or not?

“Cmere? Are we doing the masks thing or NOT, like? What’s going on?”
Colm O'Regan: Are we doing the masks thing or not?

“Cmere? Are we doing the masks thing or NOT, like? What’s going on?”

This is the question I ask myself in my Corkiest internal accent every time I walk into a shop. I keep my head tilted downwards to the ground so as not to make eye-contact with anyone in case they think I’m judging them for not wearing a mask. I want them to know: “Look, I only want my Monday ‘just-the-one’ can of Prazsky and my Dairy Milk and I’ll be on my way. I don’t want any trouble.”

I don’t mean to be a whiner. This is a good day. We have done well. There is a return to normality, albeit a wrinkled photocopy of normality.

You may have had visitors over the weekend. You found that the imminent arrival of the visitors got more tidying done in the house in an hour, than in the previous three weeks of procrastinating, finger-pointing, and wishing for elves.

We will soon have weddings. The number of guests is still up for grabs. Although I saw a headline recently that said that “Good news for wedding couples as guest lists to be reviewed by Holohan's expert team” They are probably talking in general but I think there’s a market there for health professionals to sit with couples and help them cull less wanted guests – the large vase re-gifters, people who are always cold, the energy vampires. Your mam will listen to a doctor if he tells her that ‘we were at theirs’ is not a good enough reason.

But we're not listening about masks. There’s a stat saying 41% of Irish people say they are wearing masks. Sorry, but THEY ARE IN THEIR HOLE. My stat is that shag-all people are wearing a mask. And who could blame them? The government’s messaging up to very recently has been a hames.

Meanwhile the world is adding 180000 cases a day. They're having a second wave in American before they finished the first one. And if we want to get any work done at all, people need to be able to come and go from the country. We can’t do everything by Zoom. So some cases will be back. And when that happens where will we be with masks then? Out of the habit, no momentum, no masks bought except for hoarding disposable ones. Someone binge-watching Battlestar Galactica, doing Tesco-man delivery and sitting on a stockpile of surgical masks while a hospital has to beg for money to send a plane to Guangdong to haggle with an intermediary known only as Billy the Mask.

I’m not a mask Avenger. Our washable ones only just arrived. They took a month to come. But since we paid for them I might as well wear it.

Maybe it’s alarmist and there’ll be no second wave but we’d have it for the flu season. And masks are kind of badass. I’m going around town now like Bane because no one can see the permanent semi-apologetic smile I have for negotiating crowds.

There are downsides. My wife was in Lidl at the weekend and she was asked for ID while buying wine. She had none but was all chuffed until the cashier pointed out she was wearing a mask and sunglasses. She pulled down her mask and the cashier said, "Oh right, you're grand." So she was no longer chuffed. We'll continue wearing them but it would be nice to have a bit of push behind it.

We might only have a couple of months before lots of cases come back. It’s hard to prepare for things getting bad when things are getting better. But we’ve done harder things already this year.

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