As we see near-daily stories of people without masks demanding to be allowed into retail outlets, bars, and restaurants, it’s important to remember that they don’t represent the vast majority of Americans. The difference is that the responsible among us are still mostly sheltering at home, venturing out into the world only on rare occasions — and when we do, we observe the recommended safety precautions of distance and masks. But even if 10% of the US population shuns masks, that’s more than thirty million people who are ignoring science and driving the spread of the disease. They’re the ones who are keeping the virus alive and our economy severely damaged for the foreseeable future.
Whenever I see one of those stories, I think I should go to a sporting goods store (or, in reality, their e-commerce site) to buy one of those pocket air horns, the kind used at kids’ soccer games to indicate the end of a half. Then, if I encounter an unmasked loudmouth, I’ll pull out the air horn and give them a nice, loud blast. Should they take offense at this, I’ll hit them with their own medicine: “You’re the one saying that we can do whatever we want in America, so stick this freedom in your ear!!!” HONK!!
Of course, those reject-information types don’t really believe we can do whatever we want. I’ll bet you that on the way to the store, they drove on the right side of the road with the rest of traffic, rather than wildly weaving through the lanes to prove how free they are. If they smoked, they stubbed out their cigarettes before they got to the store’s threshold. They didn’t fill up their gas tanks while fully nude.
In other words, they don’t go through their humdrum lives as rule breakers — except when it comes to public health, apparently. What makes me laugh at the mask resistors who consider themselves freedom-loving rebels is that they’re actually playing follow-the-leader, acting en masse exactly as they’ve been told to by politicians and right-wing media figures (whom, you may have noticed, you never see in public without masks!).
I’m reminded of an early Steve Martin bit (in the era when he was regularly drawing 15,000 fans to arena stops on his tours) in which he asked everyone in the crowd to raise their hands if they were non-conformists. Then he smirked when almost all of them did what they were told, not getting the joke.
Several years ago, the World Series Of Poker had a problem with men entering the Ladies Championship. In a game that has always had trouble attracting large numbers of female players — the percentage of entrants at the WSOP Main Event hovered around 3% for decades — the annual event was a chance for women to play poker in an environment that was a lot friendlier than the rest of the testosterone-infested tournaments. This was true at the local level, as well. When any of the poker rooms in the St. Louis area held their annual ladies-only events, I spotted hundreds of players who had never shown their faces in the all-gender tournaments or cash games.
Sadly, despite the Ladies Championship title, every year, some sexist male players put on dresses and wigs and sat down to compete in what they believed to be a softer playing field. It was frustrating to not only the women, but to WSOP executives, whose lawyers told them they had no choice but to let those jerks enter.
Then someone hit upon a great idea. The WSOP raised the entry fee from $1,000 to $10,000 — and gave all female entrants a 90% discount. That did it. It’s one thing to throw away a grand on a prank, but no man wanted to waste ten thousand dollars, which would rightly make them even bigger targets of ridicule. Not only were the guys kept on the sidelines, but more women than ever entered the Ladies Championship that year.
Perhaps retailers, restaurateurs, and bar owners could launch a similar promotion. They should publicly announce they’ve doubled the prices of all the items in their stores — but will give a 50% discount to anyone wearing a face mask. Those who complain that’s not fair are more than welcome to pay the new, higher price.