I found myself thinking about masks today.
Some people continue to wear them when out walking, shopping, even driving in their cars.
Most people no longer wear them, except where it’s obrigatorio–in pharmacies, health centers, and other such places.
Others should — but don’t — wear them. Like the waitress in the restaurant we ate at on Saturday. Her cough was continuous. Not the dry, hacking kind … nor the wet, sneezing kind that’s symptomatic of colds or the flu with phlegm. Hers was an incessant cough, like something scratching relentlessly at her throat. When she didn’t have anything in her hands — a plate of food, a pitcher of wine, a menu — she’d cough into her hands. Not once did she wash her hands while working or waiting on customers.
“Deves chevar uma máscara,” I told her in my best Portuguese while she stood over our table taking our order. Não, she shook her head. She’d have nothing to do with wearing a mask. Except for her father (maybe her husband?), nobody else was handling the food. And he was too busy moving ice cream around in the freezer to notice or be bothered about the need for good hygiene–especially around food.
Even during the height of the pandemic, most people in Portugal understood the need to wear masks to protect themselves as well as others. It didn’t require a government mandate (although one was issued), nor was it a matter of government interference, intervention, and/or disinformation. Certainly, there were those who believed in government conspiracies and refused to wear masks. But they were few and far between. The same could be said for Spain, where the protective face shields are called mascarillas instead of máscaras.
While there was some grumbling at times, mask-wearing never became the cause celébre provoking country-wide revolutions and demonstrations as has women not wearing face covering hijabs in Muslim countries–especially the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nor was mask wearing (or not) the divisive political issue at rallies and riots in the USA (and elsewhere).
Today when I see people wearing masks, I assume it’s because of common sense: people caring for themselves and others. Although their facial apparel makes them stand out in the crowds, I respect them for going against the grain and taking care.
Russ and I suffered through bad colds, or maybe the flu, for two weeks recently. When not bedridden or staying inside, we wore masks. In the supermarkets. In shops. On the streets.
As Covid restrictions and travel advisories become realities again, mainly because of China’s international travel while cases of this plague-like virus and its variants are surging, it’s well worth remembering that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
When in doubt, wear a mask.
There’s no law requiring you to do so … but there’s no law saying you shouldn’t.
Bruce Joffe is publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine, the thoughtful magazine for people everywhere with Portugal on their minds. To read current and past issues … and subscribe — free! — visit https://portugallivingmagazine.com.
I find it tiring reminding mask karens that YOU are responsible for protecting YOURSELF. Next time don’t eat there. Would have saved yourself an entire post…
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