To the Hum of Menace… I’ve Masked-up

A hum of menace—I heard this phrase while listening to an episode of This American Life, at least I think that’s how it went. The idea left a mark on me, a picture of how the world seems to be at the moment.

There is a hum in the air accented by throngs of aliens wearing thin, cotton, facemasks, and plastic gloves while walking their dog. It is punctuated by bare metal shelves at the grocery store in the aisles where skyline-shaped towers of toilet paper once stood.

We are in danger is the sound. We are being hunted. We are prey, the hum seems to say. However, I want to whistle a different tune. When the comment out there is REM’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It,” my rebuff is “I’m On Top of the World” by the Carpenters. I don’t know why!

I know the Coronavirus is real, it’s dangerous, and it’s just getting started. But my knee-jerk reaction to any form of stress is to seek levity. When there is fear, I poke fun. When there is dread, I break out knock-knock jokes.

A friend of mine recently said he was struggling with this whole COVID-19 thing happening. And, since Utah’s earthquake two weeks ago, he has developed Seismophobia. Instead of listening earnestly, or offering sympathy, I belted out, ‘well, you know, size does matter!’ and regretted it immediately.  This is what I do! This is how I survive!

Facemask memes and antidotes flooding social media and over texts, hasn’t stopped my urge to laugh-purge, either. It only sparks my warped sense of humor. My focus then becomes the idea of masks—the Lone Ranger, Zorro, Batman, Mardi Gras, The Phantom of the Opera, and of course, Mike Meyers. As if wearing a mask of this sort will distract or confuse the virus long enough to make a getaway!

Last week, I decided to be a responsible adult and made a couple of masks (the right kind). My husband and I were going to wear them during grocery shopping because it was, and it is the right thing to do. So we stuffed them into our coat pockets, only donning them as soon as we stepped over the threshold of Harmon’s.

It was surreal. I felt instantly disoriented—both silly and saintly, clean-conscious, and unclean. I always thought I could never be a doctor due to my phobia of needles and blood. But now I realize I couldn’t solely because I can’t handle wearing a mask!

First, there was the constant tingling. An irritation of a million small vibrations attached to the underside of the fabric moving and twitching in a million different directions that wriggled across my cheeks, my mouth, and all around my nose. My breath felt heavy and hot and too damp. I was suffocating! It reminded me of Mexico.

Years ago, my family and I went to Cancun, Mexico. I had no idea until that trip that I had claustrophobia (I mean, size does matter). I discovered this while trying to snorkel in cavernous waterways called Cenotes. My breath felt heavy, hot, and too damp. I was suffocating!

I yanked off my mask to scream and swallowed a bunch of water. Then I noticed the detached fish head float by. I was sick for two weeks.

Standing in the cereal aisle at the grocery store, I was suddenly transformed back to those watery caves. If I threw off my mask to scream and inhaled too much nasty virus, I’d be sick for two weeks all over again!

I wondered if sticking to a classic (mask-wise) would be the way to go? I could tie a bandana around the bottom half of my face. I wouldn’t have to wear gloves, and simply keep my hands under my clothes.

However, what if I needed something? What if, at the grocery store, someone asks me something, and I react by pointing through the bottom half of my shirt? Would this be considered a stick-up? “Give me all your toilet paper, and nobody gets hurt!”

I think it would be safer for all involved if I were to simply wrap myself from head to hands in an ace bandage. Instead of self-quarantining, I’d be self-mummifying for the duration! You’re welcome!

My conclusion to everything that is going on, is I don’t have a conclusion. However, because I didn’t say it to my friend, I thought I’d say it to everyone else, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that there is a human-killing bug out there. I am sorry that nobody knows how to handle it and that nobody knows how long we aren’t going to know how to handle it.

I’m sorry for the lame memes I pass from contact to contact (it’s the only kind of contact that isn’t frowned upon!). I’m sorry that we are experiencing this terrible and hard time in history, and I’m sorry it will be in history books.

But still, hang in there. Stay strong and carry on. Dance like nobody’s watching. Sing like nobody’s listening, and hum like nothing’s menacing. We can get through this together, even if we do it, six-feet-apart!




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