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Are You Ready for a Face-Off? What Would You Do?

Scenario: you’re walking down the supermarket aisle wearing your mask and you see someone approaching from the other direction, not wearing a face-mask. What would you do? You feel your blood begin to boil and your whole body tense up as you silently fume, “what is wrong with people?” Would you exasperatedly shout down the aisle in a firm voice, “You should be wearing a face-mask”? Or would you quickly grab what you need (if you can find it) and leave the aisle without saying a word?

The question is simple. The emotions it elicits are complicated. It really angers some people when they see others not doing their part to flatten the COVID-19 curve. Wearing a face-mask is an act of kindness towards others; it’s primary purpose is to keep others safe, not, in fact (and unfortunately), the wearer. Resultantly, there are some of us who are scared for our own well-being in these situations. From the other person’s perspective, they may feel their personal rights are being violated by being pressured to wear a mask, they may think the risk of COVID-19 is being overblown, or they find it hard to breathe with a mask on.

The CDC recommends wearing one in locations where it’s difficult to socially distance from others (maintaining 6 feet between you and others). It can help you from spreading COVID-19 to others. Resultantly, we believe it’s civic-minded and polite for citizens to don face-masks when out & about in public.

If you wear a face mask, what would you do if you were faced with the scenario described above?

As hard as it might be, in tense situations like the one described above, we advise you to use adult self-restraint and leave the aisle without saying a word.

Why? First, you aren’t the pandemic protocol police. You aren’t a face-mask vigilante. You can only control what is within your control – your behavior, your ability to wear a face-mask and your ability to side-step someone else. Second, tensions are high, nerves are frayed and that leads to conflicts that can sometimes turn violent and deadly. Now is not the time for you to school someone about the societal benefits of a face-mask.

What you can do is continue to be well-mannered. Having good manners means having a generous heart and a kind spirit where you treat others the way you would like to be treated. You are doing your part wearing a face-mask. But you also need to exercise adult self-restraint here. So be inconvenienced and leave the aisle without confronting the other patron. You can – and should - calmly go talk to the manager about your concern with their lax health protocols and oversight of their customers. Businesses want you -and need you – to feel safe if they are to get your return business and help the economy get back on track. Politely, remind them of that.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.”

Taking steps to increase your chances of good health is not petty. But waiting, speeding up, or otherwise altering you actions (like leaving the aisle) so that you can feel safer while being out takes just a few seconds to decide to do. Not only are you keeping others safe by wearing a face-mask and keeping yourself more safe by socially distancing from those not wearing a face-mask, you’re keeping society civilized by avoiding the creation of a potentially tense scene. Big results from such a quick decision! Thank you!


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