To mask or not to mask? But why? Does anyone know?

Tomorrow evening Stew and I will be going on a thrice-postponed trip abroad, our first since the Covid-19  pandemic began more than two years ago. We’ve been vaccinated twice and received the booster, in addition to a flu vaccine and the first of two shingles vaccines. And of course, we’ll carry our KN-95 masks in case a bus, taxi, airport or airline requires them.

And so far, so good, I must add. Neither Stew nor I have tested positive for Covid or gotten sick, while numerous friends and acquaintances have. 

Yet, despite our religious adherence to all the Covid-prevention protocols, and our gratitude for avoiding infection so far, Covid-prevention rituals any more are looking like an absurdist theater production in which we are all trapped. 

And try to have a nice meal anyway.

At a restaurant yesterday, we were required to wear masks, have our temperature taken, scrub our hands in disinfectant gel and then wet the soles of our shoes on a tray with some unknown liquid—followed by a warning not to slip on the wet marble floor. Every other table at the restaurant was vacant, in compliance with distancing requirements. 

How many millions of dollars or pesos have been spent on digital thermometers and to what end? Has a feverish patron ever turned up? What’s with the shoe-disinfecting tray? Do shoes transmit Covid? And how about the nonsensical requirement that all restaurant patrons must wear a mask when in fact people can’t eat or drink while wearing one? 

Lest I sound too cranky, I must admit that Covid protocols today in San Miguel are not half as ridiculous as when the pandemic started. A year ago I found my dentist dressed in a head-to-foot, one-piece garment with a plastic visor that made her look like an astronaut ready for a space walk. 

My barbershop was shut down by the federal government for several weeks, and fined several thousand dollars, for some sort of Covid masking violation. What could it have been? After all, your mask has to come off for the barber to cut you hair, and he can’t do so standing a meter away, in accordance with social-distancing requirements. 

Most theatrical of all were the entrance arches installed at San Miguel’s central square, which sprayed all visitors with a mysterious, presumably anti-bacterial substance. And the police check points installed at all entrances to the city where visitors aboard vehicles with out-of-state plates had to show proof of a hotel or restaurant reservation, and have the temperature of all passengers taken, before they could enter San Miguel. 

Have masks, will travel.

I’d hoped Covid protocols might come up for reassessment when a U.S. judge voided the federal mask mandate in public transportation. True, the judge who wrote the decision, appointed by the Trump administration, was rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association when she was nominated. 

Still, millions of passengers—myself included—were relieved by the apparent end of the mask requirement, even if it came from a somewhat dim legal bulb, and for political rather than medical reasons.  

The Biden administration is expected to appeal the ruling, but not too strenuously and largely to protect the president’s executive privileges.

But I forgot that decisions by an American judge don’t apply in Mexico or to foreign airlines. So in preparation for our ten-and-half-hour flight tomorrow, I checked the internet for KLM’s mask requirements. 

An entry on March 24 said that KLM had suspended mask requirements, but the airline’s official internet stated just the opposite: Everyone has to wear a mask during the flight. So which is it?

And do we have to wear one during our four-hour bus ride to Mexico City, and in the waiting rooms at bus stations and the airports in Amsterdam, Vienna and Croatia? 

Must we wear a mask when we sit in the hot tub of our small cruise ship catching some rays, bobbing around the Dalmatian Coast?  

For now, I’m afraid the only answer to these vexing questions might be to keep reciting the Serenity Prayer—slowly and often—with my mask on.  

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