Mask or masquerade?

After nearly three months, it’s understandable that states would prefer to open back up rather than stay closed. It’s understandable that businesses want to do business, to survive. It’s understandable that people want to travel, see friends, goof off, and dine out rather than be cooped up at home.

Few of us miss commuting, but some of us would like to get back into the office, too. While there are people able to thrive in a WFH environment, there are others who really rely on the collaboration, camaraderie, and even the chaos of office life. Whether it’s walking over to someone’s desk to discuss an idea, talking with coworkers as you all run out to pick up lunch, or just quietly sitting next to someone as they do their work and you do yours, it feels like our routines and connections have been broken for long enough.

But, they haven’t. A pandemic lockdown can’t go on forever, but we’ve got to be as smart as possible about reopening or we’ll end up right back in it. Three totally not-normal things will help make getting back to some kind of normal faster and easier.

  1. Social distancing
  2. Face masks
  3. Self-quarantining if exposed to potentially dangerous social situations

The issue is this: things reopening does not mean problem solved. You feeling fine does not mean you can’t unknowingly transmit coronavirus to a vulnerable person. We don’t have the luxury (or get the satisfaction) of only seeing those who ignore safety guidelines getting sick. This is a virus. Right now it’s better at spreading itself than we are at stopping it. So we do what we can.

And while for the most part masks and distancing are guidelines (not laws) for people to use their best judgment with, it’s clear that good judgment is just too much to ask (this was especially hard to see knowing that many of those people came back to our beloved HQ, St. Louis, after partying in Lake of the Ozarks).

More than 100,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 in the last few months, at least 28% of the global death toll of +350,000. Yet the U.S. makes up just 4.25% of the world’s population. The math (or rather, the death) is undeniable: as a nation we’ve done a crap job dealing with this.

Which leaves it up to us, the people.


Scott, Andi, and Bill decked out for the mask-arade. I made mine from a Goorin Bros shopping bag and old flannel, using the template linked below.

And people doing those three totally not-normal things above will go a long way. Tremendousness is still working from home, but we’re also starting to get out a little—in the safest ways possible. Some of us occasionally see friends or family—and stay distanced. We go to public spaces like grocery stores when necessary—wearing masks. We wash our hands and wipe down surfaces. We avoid crowded bars and the like. We hate it too, but we know that whatever our desires, frustrations, opinions, and political beliefs are, they aren’t any good as a defense against a virus. 

We don’t wear the masks to protect ourselves, we wear them to protect loved ones and the greater communities we are part of. Hong Kong and New York City have roughly similar populations, but had dramatically different approaches to dealing with the virus (masks being not just accepted, but expected, in Hong Kong). The status today? More than 16,000 dead in NYC and four (4!) victims in Hong Kong.

Right now, not wearing a mask, shaming those who do, or banning them in your place of business (huh?!) isn’t an act of individualistic defiance or a stake to some claim of freedom; it’s vice signaling that says, “I don’t care about anyone.” If being selfish and carefree and participating in the masquerade that everything’s normal again is the hill you want to die on, just know that it’s more likely you’ll take down someone you care about instead.

The best way to get back to something close to normal is to continue doing these less-than-perfect, often uncomfortable, and totally not-normal things: social distancing and face masks. Please?

Helpful links

Illustration by W. Scott Matthews / Tremendousness. The photos are selfies.