Decameron Tale #3: Chivalry and the Mask

Editor’s Intro: When we first venture back out into public life, it feels uncertain.  What are we worried about? It’s not just about managing the risk of Covid itself.  Masked encounters with people are awkward, and everyone is affected by the stay-at-home orders differently. We all have to relearn social interaction in a new landscape.

Sally and I decided yesterday to go to a public place together, Home Depot.  I’ve been dealing with the necessary public outings since they encourage as few people as possible to be out and Sal has pointed out that she has no mask.  I have offered my respirator but she has politely declined.

So, she made a mask from a winter scarf.  The chic fashion variety was too slippery to stay tied.  Off we went for seeds, lupines and a Rhododendron.  On the way, I began to have some concerns.  Passersby are not the least bit shy about commenting on my breathing apparatus and I had visions of being taken to task for not yielding the safer mask to Sal.  It is my wont to anticipate future problems so I formulated 4 possible responses:

1. “She’s too vain to wear it.”
2. We have decided, upon deep reflection, that she’s the more expendable.”
3. “I’m a contemptible, selfish lout.”

4.”She’s a martyr to my health and well-being.”

Obviously, the specific situation would determine the response. However, I started to have queasy feelings about my canned responses. I didn’t like the odds.  By my reckoning, I stood a fifty-fifty chance of having a bad day. A very bad day indeed!

As luck would have it, we judged the parking lot far too crowded and delayed our entering for another day.  I fear only a temporary reprieve.  Alternate responses, phrased as I would speak them, are requested.


Editor’s Note: Life in the time of Coronavirus feels surreal. That’s why my suggestion to Peter was, “QUIET ON THE SET!” which was likely a little weirder than he wanted.

If you have responses for Peter to deflect any comments about mask inequality, send them our way at He may try them out on their next foray to Home Depot.

Update: Sal now has at least four cloth masks in her arsenal!

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