Not a big fan of the new normal

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There’s been a lot of debate of late about whether protective masks should be made mandatory in certain situations, such as when using public transportation, going grocery shopping or when in other public places where physical distancing can’t be guaranteed.

Ontario hasn’t enacted a province-wide mandate on mask-wearing, and Premier Doug Ford has said he won’t make them mandatory. Currently, individual businesses can decide if they want to force patrons to wear masks inside their establishments, and individual health regions have the same power. Otherwise, the decision to wear a mask is left up to each individual.

Although I have a couple of masks on standby – in case I ever find myself in a situation where I’m required to wear one – I’ve tried to resist wearing a mask for as long as possible. But I was asked to don one while registering at the front office for a recent camping trip. The thought that immediately occurred to me was, “How can anyone stand to wear one of these things?” I couldn’t get over how hot they were and how difficult it was to breathe under them.

Maybe it was simply the material used in this homemade version, but it was unbelievably hot beneath it. I couldn’t imagine having to go eight hours a day with one covering my face. Maybe this one I picked up was intended for winter use.

I’ve been fortunate thus far not to have any real need to wear a mask. Working from home the past few months has minimized the amount of contact I might have with COVID-19. I wait in the car while my wife does the shopping, so there’s no contact with others. I’ve been playing a fair amount of golf of late and am in the company of others on the course, but the minimum physical distancing requirement is well exceeded. Wearing a mask while playing golf on a hot day would be the epitome of torture.

What I’ve always found curious is the number of people who are wearing masks while driving their cars, and there’s no one else in the vehicle. Are they doing this to get used to wearing a mask? Have they simply forgotten to remove their masks after perhaps visiting a local business? Or are they that paranoid about COVID-19 that they think the interior of their vehicle might be contaminated?

En route to the aforementioned camping trip, we passed through Guelph – whose public health unit has made masks mandatory at most businesses – and saw 90 per cent or more of the people on the street in the business district with their faces covered. It looked like a scene out of an apocalyptic Hollywood movie.

When sheltered for so long from the outside world, the things that are happening beyond your own community’s boundaries seem so surreal. This is supposed to be the new normal. I don’t care much for the new normal, and I hope a return to the old normal comes along within a reasonable time frame.

I find it unsettling that before that day arrives we’ll be forced to wear masks when flying once travel restrictions are eased. It’s not going to be pretty. Cineplex said it will not enforce mask-wearing once movie theatres are permitted to open. That means going see a movie at your own risk. Seating arrangements would likely have to follow physical distancing protocols to make that happen.

We have several unused Cineplex gift cards that will continue to gather dust until I am confident I can sit inside a theatre with complete safety… without having to wear a mask. Until then, Netflix and DVDs will have to satisfy my movie-watching needs.

Mike Jiggens is a Delhi resident

 

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