Would you call out a neighbour for not wearing a mask? DB residents Samantha Wong and Jose Sevillago head-to-head on a divisive topic.
Mask mandates have been in place in Hong Kong for over a year now and, certainly compared with many communities in the West, DBers have set a good example. We’ve stepped up, complied with the rules and worn them. Who would risk infecting a friend or neighbour after all? Who wouldn’t want ‘some protection’ for themselves?
So what happens if you’re wearing a mask and find yourself in a lift or even a store, standing next to a neighbour who refuses to do the same? Do you say something? Do you potentially engage in a public dispute? Do you give them the benefit of the doubt? DB residents Jose Sevilla and Samantha Wong present very different views on a contentious topic.
My daily routine starts by reading yesterday’s COVID-19 cases, seeing who has been arrested today and checking who is not wearing a mask in my neighbourhood.
For a year now, in all sorts if different situations, I have been requesting people not wearing a mask to do it. My aim today is not to name and shame, or to ‘out’ specific individuals, but I can say that I have an interesting collection of anecdotes to share.
Most of the time, I’m told to ‘mind my own business,’ in a time where my business is precisely the others’ businesses. One year of pandemia has not been enough for some it seems.
Others say: “I am working out,” as they speed walk by me, in the general direction of the bus stop or ferry pier. Trumpism may be some kind of ascendant in them: I choose to be working out instead of walking and my argument is as good and respectable as yours. Buddy.
A lot of the ‘confusion’ comes from the decision to allow people to run everywhere without a mask; a regulation that basically says, ‘If you run you have the right to throw your breath at others but not if you walk.’ I am not sure if there is any provision about a minimum speed limit.
What passes for fashion in DB also adds to the confusion. Some guys, who look like they would have a heart attack if they lifted their pints higher than their mouths, ‘run’ around dressed like Usain Bolt. Dream on, and put your masks on, fellas.
A couple of times, I’ve found neighbours not wearing a mask in the lift. When I ask why and point out the written notice on the wall that requests them to do so, the usual response is: “I am going for a run.” In other words, I am not wearing the compulsory mask in the most intimate public space possible, now, because I am going to run, later. On the first occasion, I didn’t react fast enough and on the second my body was somewhere else, so I missed two unique opportunities to pass gas in a lift for a good reason, vigorously and blamelessly.
To those wearing the mask around the arm, I kindly request you place it over your face because it is likely to be more effective there, according to the scientific community. (If it is in fact a party armband of sorts – and having seen the US Capitol riot, I fear it may be – I still request you place it over your face, though I do so less courteously.)
When you think of it, the risk caused by all these people who decide not to wear a mask in the street would be solved in one minute with a couple of fines – like the rest of us, those who don’t wear masks love money. Remember, we have very similar DNA.
One morning, I asked two police officers why they did not implement the government rules, while a mask-less guy and his dog walked by, both looking at me wondering what I had done. The officers said that the police had a ‘different procedure.’ After a five-minute explanation, I failed to grasp how it was ‘procedure’ not to punish blatant lawbreakers. But the officers told me I was a good guy, and I felt much better.
I used to recommend that the dudes who don’t wear masks go back to school and claim their money back because they didn’t teach them anything, but I stopped when I realised that they are precisely the material used by talented people like Harry Harrison in the South China Morning Post. Checking out Harry’s View is the fourth thing I do in my daily routine; it ensures my day goes well.
And then I run. In a mask.
When I run, I run in a mask. Except, when I don’t. When I take my son Joshua out for a walk, I wear a mask and make sure he does too. Except, when I don’t.
Every now and then I don’t wear a mask because… I forget to. That’s not an excuse (pathetic or otherwise), it’s simply the truth. You might say this is because I’m a bit slow on the uptake and haven’t fully adjusted to the ‘new normal’ yet. There’s something in that. But it’s also because sometimes – just sometimes – life (normal or otherwise) gets in the way.
When I leave my flat, I run through a mental checklist: Have I got my handbag, my keys, my child and our masks? Very occasionally, as I attempt to balance a full-time job, which thankfully I can do from home, with child-care, also a full-time job, which I do at home, something drops off. Remembering to pick up my handbag and keys as I leave the house has become habitual (I’ve been doing it for 22 years or so), Joshua’s been around for seven years so he’s usually uppermost in my mind – masks not so much.
Just last week I took Joshuato Siena Park to meet a friend and, while we were playing, I realised that I had remembered to put on his mask but had forgotten my own. Anyone who walked by – who didn’t know me– could have mistaken me for an anti-masker.
It would be easy to assume that this occasional non-mask wearing of mine stems from a problem I have with authority, or from an elitist gene in my own makeup that convinces me I’m somehow immune to COVID. Likely, I’m a conspiracy theorist, who doesn’t believe in the number of confirmed cases, the death stats, or even in the virus itself. But that’s not the case. Am I a sociopath hell bent on endangering the lives of others, or simply a natural-born risk taker, who doesn’t get the bigger picture? Wrong again.
‘Judge not lest ye be judged’ is a good maxim. ‘People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’ is another. If I had never ever forgotten to wear a mask and if I was certain that I never ever would, I might berate someone for not wearing there’s. But I have and, if I’m honest, I know I likely will again, so I don’t.
We live in a caring community; DBers try to look out for each other. Do many of us go about mask-less, recklessly endangering our neighbours because we can’t be bothered to care? I’d say not. Times are hard for everyone right now and I think we could all use the benefit of the doubt. I know I could.
Photos by Terry Chow and Adobe StockTags: mask, covid