complaints, mental health, rants

Certain people remind me why I prefer hanging out with dogs…

Fair warning… this post is kind of cranky and negative. You may not want to read it, but I really felt like writing it.

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine shared a stale Facebook post about the importance of getting COVID vaccines, even if we don’t know what’s in them. The post also reminded everyone that we don’t know what’s in a lot of things we consume. My friend added the comment that people who refuse to be vaccinated should not be shown compassion or mercy when they eventually get sick with COVID-19.

That post, along with an accompanying judgmental, frustrated, angry attitude, was one I have seen many times since the vaccines first became available. I couldn’t help but feel a slight twinge of irritation as I prepared to scroll past it. I mean, it’s been two years. Most people have made up their minds and don’t necessary want or need a stale PSA/meme/recycled social media post to change their views.

But then I noticed that one of my friend’s friends had written a rebuttal– not against the wisdom of getting inoculated, but against the attitude that people who don’t get vaccinated are undeserving of medical care. I liked what the man said– that there is no “sin” in not getting vaccinated, especially since the initial promises regarding vaccination turned out to be somewhat invalid.

Let me make it abundantly clear that I do believe the vaccinations are good, and I certainly recommend that people get the shots. I have been fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, and I spend most of my time alone in my house. I take my dogs for walks, but other than that, I don’t go around other people. When I do go around others, I wear a mask as required. And it’s not even so much COVID-19 that has forced me into this isolated lifestyle. I kind of fell into it years ago, when I found myself outside of the work world.

I used to enjoy going out on the weekends, visiting tourist sites, and eating in restaurants. But now, thanks to the miserable and ever changing COVID-19 rules in Europe, even that’s unappealing to me. It’s too confusing, inconvenient, and potentially embarrassing to go out into the world. So I stay home and read hyperbolic comments from high and mighty people in the United States, bitching about how uncaring other people are, and how if they get sick and aren’t vaccinated, they totally deserve to suffer.

My friend had posted about how irresponsible and uncaring unvaccinated people were running around “murdering” people by being infectious. From the very beginning, I have cringed when I’ve read or heard someone accuse someone with COVID of “murder”. Folks, at best, someone who spreads COVID-19 might be guilty of negligent homicide or involuntary manslaughter. And even that is a stretch, given that people pick up germs all the time, in all sorts of situations, and there are many variables that influence how well their bodies will cope with, and hopefully recover from, any of the germs they pick up.

Murder generally requires premeditation and malice, and using the extreme and alarmist term “murder” is, in my view, an unnecessary overstatement– especially since most people who get COVID do eventually recover, at least to some extent. This situation sucks plenty already, and it’s already caused incredible hardship and grief. We don’t need to make it worse by calling people who spread COVID “murderers”, when they would never fit the definition of “murderer” in a court of law– at least not in the United States.

My friend also wrote that people who are unvaccinated should not have access to medical care. And again, as I have repeatedly stated, I highly disagree with that view– especially from someone who professes to be a devout Christian, as my friend does. I am not particularly religious myself, but I did go to church for many years. And I was taught that Jesus Christ had compassion and mercy, especially for the sick. Jesus would not deny medical care to someone who needs it, even if that person could have avoided severe illness by getting vaccinated and taking precautions.

Moreover, even if the unvaccinated person has wantonly avoided vaccination and adopted an uncaring, callous attitude, chances are good that the person will still be missed by someone. Chances are also good that someone relied on that person and now no longer has them. That person in need could be a child, or an elderly person, or someone with special needs. Now, their life is going to be upended because someone they needed got sick and died unexpectedly… and people are mocking them, to boot! These people who call for us to have compassion and consideration for others are actually laughing at people who have died of COVID. Of course, dead people aren’t the ones who hear the laughter; it’s their grieving friends and loved ones who are left to deal with that.

Ah– but you might say, if that was the case, then the person should have made it a priority to get vaccinated. To that, I might agree– except we never know why a person has avoided getting the shots. It could be because they simply don’t care, or it could be because he or she has to work, and can’t afford to take time off to recover from potential side effects of the vaccine. Or maybe that person lives in an area that isn’t near a place where he or she can get the shots. There are a lot of “food deserts” in the United States. I would imagine that the food deserts are also pharmaceutical deserts. In any case, I don’t think it’s helpful to laugh about someone’s death. It happens to all of us at some point.

So, I found myself responding with most of the above points to my friend, even though I hesitated at first. I added that here in Europe, lawmakers have tackled the problem of unvaccinated people by trying to make life harder for them. In some areas, for instance, unvaccinated people are being fined, and some are losing their jobs over lack of vaccination. Here in Germany, an unvaccinated person often can’t go into a restaurant or a non-essential retail outlet. They can’t go to theaters or sports arenas. Even those who have been twice vaccinated have to show a negative test result or proof that they’ve been boosted. And guess what! The virus is STILL spreading!

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be taking precautions. It just means that all of the preaching and yammering about masks and vaccines, as if they are going to save humanity, is not necessarily based in truth. Vaccines make severe sicknesses and deaths from COVID less likely, but they don’t entirely stop sicknesses and deaths from happening. So shaming people for not doing exactly what they’re told is kind of pointless, since even if they do what they’re supposed to do, they still might get sick. And no doubt about it, every person WILL someday die of something.

Last night, Bill took Noyzi to the vet to get routine doggy vaccines. Before he could get services, he had to show the receptionist his ID, plus his “COVPass”, which is an app on his phone that provides proof that he’s had his three shots. And then, he STILL had to wait outside. Then he was ushered into the treatment room where our sweet Zane was euthanized in 2019, before all of this stupid shit started.

So what prompted this post? Over the past couple of days, I’ve seen several other “tut tut” posts from supposed friends about the importance of masking and vaccines. And folks, I’ll be honest… I am so sick of seeing them. It’s been two years. If people haven’t gotten the message by now, I doubt they ever will. These kinds of PSAs tend to elicit positive responses from those who have already jumped on the bandwagon, and derisive, snarky responses from those who think masking is a waste of time. And then there are people like me, who just want to get on with life and be done with this shit, for better or worse.

Are people really going to put on a mask because they saw this? I also hate the cutesy little slogans, like “mask up”. I feel like telling a person who says this to “fuck off.” I know that’s not nice, but it’s my honest reaction.

Also… as someone who never saw Star Wars, this reference is lost on me, anyway. Bill is a Star Wars fan, so he clued me in. I know people are going to share this shit anyway, so writing this post is really my only action against this practice. I’m also a firm believer that people should share what they want to on their social media accounts. Still, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t vexed by the constant preaching and lecturing.

Not surprisingly, this one comes from the Cook County Department of Public Health.

While I agree that it is responsible to wear a mask when you’re in a crowd of people, I find these kinds of shaming posts irritating and offensive. Because again– those who don’t believe in masking are not going to be swayed by something like this, and those who are onboard with the program will be cheerleading, and people like me, who believe in science, but are fucking sick of reading and hearing about COVID, are just going to be aggravated by it. When I see these posts, I’m just reminded of how much this sucks. Ditto to those who argue with strangers online, and implore them with comments like “Please educate yourself.” as if they are the authority on all things.

I do hope that COVID-19 will present us with a “silver lining” of sorts. Like, for instance, I think our healthcare system needs a massive overhaul, particularly in terms of the financial aspects of it. Obviously, we all need access to affordable healthcare. In the case of a contagious disease like COVID-19, it’s absolutely crucial and essential that people be able to access competent healthcare, even if some people think the unvaccinated shouldn’t get treatment or comfort measures. That person who stubbornly refused to be vaccinated can still spread the virus, you know, even as they writhe in the death throes that some think they richly deserve. It’s in our best interest to take care of the sick people, even if they chose not to be vaccinated or, in some cases, simply were unable to access the shots. You probably won’t know which case they fall under, and honestly, who’s got time to ask?

Maybe this situation will help us prepare for the next pandemic, and you know there will be one. Hopefully, by the time it hits, I’ll already be dead. But maybe some people will learn from this… maybe. Or maybe some really smart person will come up with ways to make mitigating this virus easier and more effective, so life won’t be so shitty anymore. One can always hope. But for now, I’m probably going to continue to be really crabby. At least I still have my dogs.

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business, complaints, rants

I’m not loving it at the Golden Arches… another COVID related rant.

I have a bunch of travel writing to do, and I am definitely going to get to it. But before I dive into travel blogging, I have to rant about something that happened yesterday as we were driving home from Austria. I’m sure some people reading this will come to the conclusion that I was being a “Karen” (a term I loathe, by the way). If you want to think of me in that way, it’s your privilege. However, I think my complaint makes some sense… especially if you live in Europe, where COVID rules and regulations change at every border, and at the whims of whomever is in charge.

Alright… so now that I’ve issued a disclaimer of sorts, here’s my story.

Bill and I just took a trip that took us through Germany, Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia. In every place, there were different COVID-19 rules in effect regarding mask wearing, vaccines, and what not. In Austria, if you have been vaccinated, you don’t even need to wear a mask, unless you’re on a bus, in a grocery store, or visiting a medical facility. In Slovenia, masks were supposedly required, but very few people wore them properly, or at all. Same with Croatia, where almost everyone who wore a mask had it under their noses or chins. Croatia and Slovenia are supposedly COVID “hot spots”, although the places we visited were almost completely devoid of people.

In Germany, masks are still required indoors, and some regions have rules that are stricter than others. In Bavaria, for instance, customers are supposed to wear masks. However, a surgical mask is evidently not enough. You’re supposed to wear a FFP2 mask, which is thicker and looks like a coffee filter. Because they’re really thick and close fitting, I can’t stand to wear them. So I don’t. That’s not a problem in Hesse, where I live, because here, a surgical mask works. And people, on the whole, are less anal retentive in Hesse than they are in some of the more southern regions of Germany.

Anyway, I guess Bavaria had loosened up on the masking protocols over the summer, because on our way to Austria on October 26th, we stopped at a roadside McDonald’s for lunch. We had to show the cashier that we were vaccinated, and of course, we wore masks. However, I, and many of the other people in the restaurant, wore surgical masks, and no one said a word about it. No one said anything at the rest stops we used in Bavaria, either, going to or coming back from the more southern countries we visited.

On the way home yesterday, we ended up stopping at the same McDonald’s for lunch. I hadn’t wanted to stop there again, but when we tried to stop at a different roadside restaurant, there was no parking available for cars. The spaces were all taken up by tractor trailers. The next available stop was the same one we visited on the way down to Austria on October 26th. Again, we visited that restaurant not two weeks ago and had no issues, even though I wasn’t wearing the much vaunted FFP2 mask, nor were many of the other people in the restaurant.

I wasn’t smiling with my eyes… that is for sure.

We walked into the McDonald’s, which was pretty empty. To get to the counter, we had to walk past the restrooms and up a flight of stairs. We approached the cashier who, without saying “Hello” or “Welcome” or “Kiss my ass” or anything, pointed to me and said I needed a FFP2 mask. I probably gave her an extremely annoyed look. Then I turned to Bill and said, “Nope. Forget it. Let’s just go.”

FUCK.

So we turned around and left the McDonald’s. Then we went to the neighboring Burger King and got lunch there, although we decided to eat it in the car. I probably will never return to that McDonald’s, because I will always remember the rude way that cashier in an empty restaurant told me it wasn’t enough that I have been fully vaccinated and was wearing a medical mask. I also needed to be wearing the coffee filter for the ten seconds I would be face to face with that woman, who was, herself, along with her fellow crew members, wearing a simple surgical mask.

I actually did have a brand new FFP2 mask in my purse, but I realized that in order to comply with the rules, I’d have to leave the restaurant, take off my surgical mask, put on the FFP2 mask, then go back in, climb the flight of stairs, show my vaccine certs, and then sit down at a table, where I would promptly remove the mask so we could have a rather crappy lunch. It seemed like an unnecessary and pointless exercise, when all I wanted to do was pick up some food and quickly eat before I turned into a hangry Godzilla.

Frankly, that exchange, while likely in compliance with Bavaria’s current COVID-19 rules, was very off-putting. The experience of eating at a McDonald’s is, in and of itself, pretty off-putting, anyway. It seemed absurd to me that just 24 hours earlier, Bill and I visited a beautiful restaurant in Salzburg, where we wore masks inside and were advised we could remove them entirely, once we showed the hostess proof of vaccination.

I realize that the cashier was just doing what she was ordered to do, and I did, after the fact, read that the rules changed again as of yesterday morning. I know that working at McDonald’s, even in a civilized country like Germany, is probably not the most fun job there is, and I know it doesn’t pay very well. I don’t know how much anxiety was involved for her in pointing out to me that my medical mask wasn’t suitable. My guess, given that it was Bavaria, is that she probably enjoyed enforcing the rules. She probably doesn’t care that we left the restaurant disappointed and unsatisfied. However, if enough people end up doing that, I’m not sure how long that restaurant can stay in business.

My complaint isn’t even so much with the cashier who was following the rules, as it is with the fact that the rules in Bavaria differ so much from the rules in other areas. Since that restaurant is at a truck stop, it serves people who are coming from all over Europe, driving from places that have different rules that change by the region or the ever changing hospital rates. A lot of them may not be aware of or prepared for Bavaria’s quirkier rules which, to be honest, are probably not much more than optics that make it look like Bavaria is doing “more” to stop the spread of the virus.

Seriously… stop and think about it for a minute. Bill wore a FFP2 mask, but it’s one he’s used repeatedly for I don’t know how long. Those masks cost significantly more than surgical masks do, so people tend to reuse them for long periods of time, which hinders their effectiveness. Changing out the masks is also something that people don’t necessarily think to do, even if the cost of them isn’t a burden. People tend to put them on for as long as required, take them off, and stuff them somewhere convenient for quick and easy compliance.

For that reason, I am convinced that this rule is just about optics and trying to “look” more aggressive. It’s probably a political move more than anything else. As long as you wear the “right” mask, it doesn’t matter that it’s months old. You just have to look like you’re in compliance. I’m sure my fresher surgical mask was less polluted and probably “safer” than Bill’s nasty, overused FFP2 was. But because his was a FFP2, he was deemed as following the rules in an otherwise empty restaurant, while I didn’t pass muster.

The disposable masks also create pollution. I’ve seen quite a lot of them tossed on the ground. And it also doesn’t look like the FFP2 masks are even that much more effective. Though Bavaria has required the heavier masks since January 2021, they’re obviously still having issues with the spread of the virus. That’s not going to improve until more people get vaccinated or develop antibodies. The stupid mask procedures are just a Band-Aid, especially when they are arbitrarily enforced, and not required of staff members.

I didn’t argue with the McDonald’s cashier. I didn’t flip her off, threaten her, swear at her, or even say anything particularly snarky. I just looked really annoyed and said, “Nope. Forget it. Let’s go.” Then we turned around and left, not having done any business with the huge American monstrosity that is McDonald’s. That pretty much means that McDonald’s doesn’t offer a product worth jumping through hoops for, nor did the cashier’s less than friendly and welcoming attitude make me want to cooperate with her. So we went to their competitor, instead. The food wasn’t any better there, but at least it satisfied my hunger long enough to get us home before I went full on Godzilla.

And now, I’m thinking I won’t be voluntarily doing any business in Bavaria until this COVID bullshit is mitigated. Nothing against the Bavarians, but there are other places I can visit where I don’t have to jump through endless anal retentive hoops to accomplish the most basic activities of life. Sheesh… I know I’m complaining, but give me a break. I come from the United States, where people are actually coming to physical blows over COVID rules. Americans aren’t the only ones, either. Some Germans are starting to get fed up, too. Recently, a German man shot and killed a cashier at a gas station because he felt constrained by the rules and was upset about government overreach. Sadly, some Germans who are similarly fed up were laughing and cheering about the murder.

I also read a fascinating story yesterday about how some American McDonald’s employees in Bradford, Pennsylvania are fed up with the crappy working conditions and low pay there. Almost the entire day shift walked off the job. I can’t blame them at all for that. I don’t know if it’s better to work at a German McDonald’s… it probably is. The food is only marginally better, anyway. I do think it’s kind of funny to be so concerned about FFP2 masks when McDonald’s is unhealthy on so many levels. Properly worn, the FFP2 masks supposedly protect the wearer from viruses, but then they get exposed to the food at McDonald’s.

To be clear, I certainly don’t think it’s appropriate to resort to physical violence or kill people over face masks… but I’m not going to voluntarily accept being forced to wear a FFP2 as a condition of doing business, unless that becomes the norm everywhere, is required of everyone, and is consistently enforced. Bavaria and its hyper-controlling powers-that-be can just stick that shit where the sun doesn’t shine… and that sure does describe my disposition yesterday, as we left the Golden Arches for the more welcoming Burger King next door.

Come to think of it… it’s healthier all the way around not to visit the Golden Arches. Maybe I should thank the Bavarians for that. 😉

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complaints, condescending twatbags, expressions

“Not the sharpest knife in the drawer…”

Yesterday, The Washington Post ran an article about how the declining birthrate in the United States is going to be a problem and outlining how other countries have tried to encourage people to have babies. This isn’t the first time I’ve read about how the declining birth rate is causing concern. However, after years of hearing how overpopulated the world is and how our natural resources are dwindling, it does surprise me that now people are being encouraged to breed more. I get that it’s mainly because a steep decline in the birth rate will cause a shortage of people available to work as our population continues to age. However, I think that’s a pretty stupid and selfish reason to encourage people to have children, particularly when the world is so completely fucked.

After I read the article, I checked out a few of the comments on Facebook. Someone posted about the lunacy of encouraging people to breed and a guy named “Ken” made a crack about how we’ll have robots working in nursing homes.

God bless the people who are willing to take care of the elderly, especially if they enjoy doing it and are good at it, but it’s not right to expect people to do it if that’s not what they want to do with their lives. Moreover, the sad reality is, if a robot does become available that can do the work of caring for the elderly, chances are the robot will be made. Robots don’t have to be paid; they don’t need to take vacations or maternity leave; and they can be programmed. Companies that make money by hiring robots to do jobs humans once did will do just that, because money is more important to them than putting humans to work. Having a surplus of babies will not change that reality. It’ll just be more people to feed, clothe, educate, and find work for.

I know I should have kept scrolling, but I couldn’t help myself. I posted that the prospect of robots working in nursing homes is a dumb reason to have kids. I didn’t add this part, but I was thinking about how selfish it is to have babies with the expectation that they’ll grow up to do a specific job… like wiping my ass when I’m an old lady.

Children should be wanted and loved by their parents. They shouldn’t be born simply to fill a quota. It’s not right to expect people to have babies if they don’t want them or can’t have them. Note– I did not call Ken “dumb”, I said having babies simply for the sake of making bodies is a “dumb reason” to have children. Especially when there are families like the Duggars who are having enough babies for many single people.

“Ken” then proceeded to tell me that I’m “not the sharpest knife in the drawer”, then demanded to know if I’d read the article. Uh… I ALWAYS read before I comment. So I responded, explaining to Ken that I’m definitely “sharp enough”. I criticized the idea of having babies just to boost the population– especially since there’s no telling how the people resulting from those births will turn out in the future. I also advised him not to insult total strangers.

He came back and insulted me again, claiming that I’m “ignorant” and “obtuse”, and inviting me to go visit nursing homes so I could see the true state of things. Of course he doesn’t know anything about me at all, and obviously doesn’t want to know. He just lashes out with random insults and assumptions about complete strangers. I wonder if he has any friends.

I was tempted to rip “Ken” a new one, but decided to block him instead. Because when it comes down to it, there’s no point in getting into a war of words with someone who feels the need to insult people they don’t even know. In two comments, this total stranger called me “not the sharpest knife in the drawer”, “ignorant”, and “obtuse”. While I know that none of his comments about me are true, I was really inspired to rip his head off and shit down his neck. Fortunately, I realized that not only would that be unproductive, but it would also make me a hypocrite. I don’t like hypocrisy, or getting into pointless arguments with people I don’t even know. Still, I would be lying if I said his words weren’t offensive, even if I know they shouldn’t matter. They’re not personal, because he would have to know me for them to be personal. He obviously isn’t interested in knowing me or making a connection. He just wants to be rude to people who don’t agree with him.

I am grateful I had enough sense not to waste time arguing with “Ken”, who really should go out and get pregnant, since he’s so worried about the future. I wanted to ask him if he routinely responds to people with such tackiness. I guess he thinks I should have gotten pregnant a couple of times instead of wasting my time on higher education. Maybe he’s right, although if I’d had children, my life would probably be very different. Either way, arguing with him would have been a waste of time, so I decided to just block him and move on. Obviously, no one taught him any manners or regard for others, and that’s sad. But it’s not my job to give him a clue, nor should I be spreading the epidemic of incivility on the Internet.

I’m not sure if the stresses of the last year have made people more insufferable and disrespectful or I’m just worn out by the stress and have a much lower tolerance. It could be a bit of both. I did catch myself feeling hopeful yesterday as my arm twinged with the slight pain of my first COVID-19 vaccine. I had a red, slightly swollen oval around the injection site– maybe two inches wide and an inch tall. My body is mounting an immune response to the vaccine, which I hope, after my second Moderna shot, will mean I can finally have some fun again. Maybe the prospect of a trip will have a good effect on my mood.

Actually, the COVID-19 news seems to be getting better, even here in Germany. Last month, there was all this doom and gloom about how no one could get vaccines, and the illness was killing people and overloading the hospitals. Angela Merkel was wanting to lock everything down indefinitely, even though we’ve been locked down in some form since November. But now, about the vaccines are finally being rolled out and there’s talk that the restrictions could be loosening soon. I am dreaming of a trip to Stuttgart to see our dentist and get a cleaning, at long last. Noyzi the rescue dog needs a test run at the boarding facility, too. I suspect in a few weeks, we’ll be able to get out of town and maybe even take a short trip to another country. I’d settle for a short trip in Germany that isn’t in Hesse.

It’s hard to learn the lesson that what other people think of you is none of your business. However, it’s also hard not to know what’s “none of your business” when people like “Ken” so freely share their negative and uninformed opinions about people they don’t even know. It bothers me that a perfect stranger feels perfectly okay calling a total stranger “dull”, “ignorant”, and “obtuse”, simply because of a disagreement. But when it comes down to it, saying those things is more revelatory of Ken’s character than my level of intelligence. He just happened to hit a raw nerve. My whole life, people have underestimated me and called me “silly”, “giddy”, “giggly”, “blonde”, or “jolly”. Then, when they eventually realize I’m not *just* those things, they give me another label– usually a negative one. My father used to say I was “arrogant”, as he added that I would never make more than minimum wage. Then he wondered why I didn’t like him very much and wasn’t interested in spending time with him.

I suppose my run in with “Ken” makes me glad that I married a man who values a woman with a brain. Bill does listen to my opinions and think I’m plenty “sharp”. So even though it stings when I run into people like “Ken”, it probably is best to just block people like him and go on with my life. What he thinks of me is none of my business. The fact is, he couldn’t be more wrong about me, and he’s not interested in learning the truth. So his opinions about my intelligence or lack thereof are irrelevant… and his opinions about the birthrate in the United States are irrelevant to me, too, especially since I’m not tasked with procreating with him. If he’s wrong about my intelligence, he’s probably wrong about a lot of other things. Moreover, he clearly doesn’t understand that there are real people behind the computer screens. The fact that he and his ilk aren’t sharp enough to get that is just one more reason why it’s better not to reproduce.

Sorry… I know this is kind of a “brently” post. I’m just fed up with a lot of stuff. I realize I’m luckier than many people are, but the older I get, the more I think that having a bunch of children is a foolhardy thing to do. Give me my rescue dogs and that’ll be fine. If that makes me “dull”, so be it. At least I haven’t spread any of my defective DNA to any unsuspecting descendants.

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condescending twatbags, healthcare, overly helpful people

Asshole detectors…

Yesterday, I read an article on The Atlantic entitled “Are Outdoor Mask Mandates Still Necessary?” Written by Derek Thompson, this piece was exactly what it sounds like… an article about whether or not people should be forced to wear face masks when they are outside. Here in Germany, we aren’t obligated to wear a mask outdoors if we can “socially distance”. I have noticed that despite the rather anal retentive and uptight rule following stereotype that seems to dog the German people, folks here are not too jazzed about wearing masks 24/7. I never see people wearing them when I’m walking my dogs through the neighborhood, although people do wear them at bus stops because it’s required.

Thompson included statements from respected public health experts from around the world, explaining why the zero tolerance/100% enforcement attitude could backfire in getting people to comply with the rules. Thompson wrote:

Requiring that people always wear masks when they leave home, and especially in places with low levels of viral transmission, is overkill. As mentioned, the coronavirus disperses outside, posing little risk to people who are walking alone or even swiftly passing by strangers. In fact, almost all of the documented cases of outdoor transmission have involved long conversations, or face-to-face yelling. The risk calculation changes if you’re standing in a crowd: Some uneven evidence suggests that the Black Lives Matter protests last summer increased local infections. But that’s an easy carve-out. States can end blanket mandates and still recommend outdoor masking by anyone experiencing symptoms, or in crowds. (Extended conversations pose their own risk, but when people are vaccinated, the odds of viral transmission are probably somewhere between microscopic and nonexistent.)

Outdoor mask mandates might also turn people off from obeying better rules. “Given the very low risk of transmission outdoors, I think outdoor mask use, from a public-health perspective, seems arbitrary,” Muge Cevik, an infectious-disease and virology expert at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, told The Washington Post. “I think it affects the public’s trust and willingness to engage in much higher-yield interventions. We want people to be much more vigilant in indoor spaces.”

Makes sense to me. If I’m alone in the woods or swiftly passing someone on my walking route, I don’t think wearing a mask is as important as it would be if I was in a huge crowd of people who are shouting. Also, there are quite a lot of people who just plain resent being “nannied” and “nagged” by others. If we let people exercise their free will in less risky areas, they may be more willing to cooperate when they’re indoors. And yes, to me, it makes more sense to wear a mask when indoors with strangers than it does out on the street, when you can be far enough away from people not to risk sharing germs.

Thompson continues:

Julia Marcus, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, spoke with several male mask skeptics last year for a piece in The Atlantic. When she explained that masking wasn’t as important outdoors, the men became more amenable to wearing them indoors. By connecting rules to reasons, she got them to see the value of covering their nose and mouth when it actually mattered. Last week, Marcus told me that she’s baffled by the notion that the best way to get people to wear masks inside is to mandate that everybody wear one when they’re alone outside. “We don’t recommend condom use when people are enjoying themselves alone to get them to wear condoms with their sexual partners,” she said.

The argument that outdoor mask mandates create a warm and fuzzy feeling of social solidarity confuses a personal definition of etiquette (“I think my mask makes everybody feel safe”) with a public defense of population-wide laws (“everybody should wear a mask everywhere, because it’s the only way to make everybody feel safe). Masks send all sorts of messages to all sorts of different people. To some, they’re beacons of safety; to others, they’re signs of imperious government overreach. As Marcus argued, mandating a public-health tool that’s not needed can drive away people who might otherwise be on board with more important interventions. “I think there’s a proportion of the population that believes restrictions will last indefinitely,” Marcus said, “and they are probably one of the hardest groups to keep engaged in public-health efforts.”

And I also liked that Thompson considered that not everyone has the same reality. A lot of people– myself included– are lucky enough to have backyards or balconies. But many more people are not so fortunate. In our previous house, we lived next to a large naturepark. But we didn’t have balconies or a yard with a functional fence, where we could let the dogs out free. The fence at our last house was more of a decoration, and would not have allowed us to safely sit outside with the dogs untethered. I know a lot of other people in Germany simply live in flats with no private spaces at all. As Thompson says:

Finally, mandating outdoor masks and closing public areas makes a show of “taking the virus seriously” while doing nothing to reduce indoor spread, in a way that often hurts the less fortunate. To deal with its COVID-19 spike, for example, the Canadian province of Ontario instituted a stay-at-home order and closed many parks and playgrounds. “These policies are made by people who have yards,” Marcus said. “If you live in an apartment building and have no yard, and are required to wear masks at all times outdoors, you never get to be maskless outside. And then, where do people gather maskless to socialize? Inside their homes”—where the risk of transmission is higher.

I thought Thompson’s article was fair and balanced, and the information within it was reasonable. I especially appreciated the comments from Julia Marcus, who came right out and said that there are people (like me) who worry that the mask mandates will turn into an indefinite rule. Allowing for some easing of the rules outside gives people hope that we won’t have to tolerate these rules forever, and that will make it easier to keep being vigilant. A lot of us just PLAIN don’t want to live this way for the rest of our lives, and we resent other people insisting that this is the way it HAS to be from now on. The fact is, many people feel that this is NOT how it should be. We should be working hard on a solution that makes mask wearing obsolete for most people. Or, at least that’s my opinion… but it seems like more and more people, especially in the United States, feel like only one opinion is the correct one. Anyone who disagrees is automatically an “asshole.”

One thing I take comfort in, at least here in Germany, is that it’s pretty obvious to me that people here are not going to accept being forced to wear face masks forever. In fact, I have noticed that even rule loving Germans are starting to rebel. There have been more protests lately, especially as Angela Merkel has pressed for stricter lockdowns. People are really getting tired of the crisis and they’re becoming more apathetic and lax.

I know there are people in some countries that are forced to wear veils whenever they are outside, but the rest of the world isn’t the Islamic world, where those kinds of oppressive rules are okay. And Thompson then ends with this uplifting conclusion:

Hyper-neuroticism is a mitzvah during a pandemic. But we really don’t have to live like this forever, and it’s okay for more people to say so. We can learn to look at a well-populated beach and not see a gross failure of human morality. We can see somebody unmasked in a park and not think, I guess that one doesn’t believe in science. We can walk down an uncrowded street with a mask, or without a mask, or with a mask sort of hanging from our chin, and just not really worry about it. We can reduce unnecessary private anxiety and unhelpful public shame by thinking for a few seconds about how the coronavirus actually works and how to finally end the pandemic. Let’s tell people the truth and trust that they can take it. Let’s plan for the end of outdoor mask mandates.

BRAVO! And let that be the FIRST step in eventually ending ALL mask mandates, because COVID-19 will be under control, like most infectious diseases usually become after time passes and science advances. Or, at least that’s what I think we should be aiming for. That’s what makes the masks different from seatbelts, which I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of, at least in my lifetime.

I felt pretty good as I read Derek Thompson’s article. But as I finished reading about how there’s a weird dichotomy between hyper-neurotic mask police types and vehement anti-maskers, I had sinking feeling that there would be tons of comments left on the magazine’s Facebook page. Sure enough, I was right. So many people, clearly folks who didn’t bother to read, left comments regarding this article. And one person wrote that non-maskers are his personal form of an “asshole detector”. Behold:

At this point I think of them less as masks and more as asshole detectors. Even if the chances are small, it’s the very least you can do for your fellow man. How damned privileged is our society that this is a hot button issue? If it happens to save even a few extra lives, it’s worth it. Buck up buttercups.

Seriously, dude? I think YOU are an asshole for taking this attitude toward your fellow man, especially as you pat yourself on the back for being so “considerate” as you judge people you don’t even know. And I think people who comment on things they haven’t read are assholes, adding unnecessary and uninformed noise that everybody else has to wade through.

and…

I live in southern Georgia and literally no one wears masks in stores, etc. All asshole behavior. I literally got into a verbal argument with a man that refused to stand on the 6 ft marker on floor in grocery store check out line. No mask. Even the clerk was like, “Sir, stand back!” It’s like the non-maskers get off on being a bully.

Why get in an argument with someone? Just get away from them. Arguing with a stranger is “asshole behavior” too, isn’t it?

There were more comments like that, along with the usual chorus of people writing things like “just wear the damn mask”, which I find pretty offensive, myself. I don’t think it helps compliance when you swear at people. In fact, people who swear at perfect strangers are probably assholes, right? I actually feel like telling them to go fuck themselves, but because I’m a lady, I don’t do that. 😉 Instead, I just think it to myself… and if I get angry enough, I vent about it in my blog.

I mean, I do wear a mask if I have to. But I go out of my way not to be in situations where I have to wear a mask, or deal with assholes who take it upon themselves to determine what perfect strangers are or are not doing as “asshole detectors”. Here’s one that made me laugh…

But it doesn’t matter. Wear the mask. It’s not an inconvenience in any way. It’s the least difficult thing that has ever been asked of us to do collectively. Articles like this only lend credence to selfish, broken people. Wear the mask until the pandemic is over. Simple. And until then, STFU.

Dude… to some people, it truly IS an inconvenience. You may not think it is, but they do– and they get an opinion and a vote, too! And telling someone to STFU, sorry, is also “asshole behavior”. You don’t get to tell people to STFU, simply because you claim to agree with the opinions of “experts” and you assume they don’t. There are all kinds of people out there who really are experts, and most of them have more balanced, fair, informed, and sensible opinions than yours. This lady had a sensible comment, in my opinion…

As a biologist, I can confirm that masking while outside was only suggested if you would be less than six feet from others (the transmission distance for errant coughs, sneezes or loud talking); it was never required by science to mask all the time outside. I carry or wear it and put up/on as I approach others on a path etc. ps I would warn against dining inside until one is vaccinated: the author’s point about the indoors being highest risk is valid.

And this guy also has reasonable thoughts, in my view…

I agree with this. The problem with outdoor mask mandates with fines for noncompliance is it becomes something law enforcement can selectively enforce. Look at what Miami was doing. They passed an ordinance that said everyone had to wear a mask at all times indoors or outdoors even when social distancing is possible. Miami police basically set up mask traps and stood outside supermarkets just waiting for people to come out of the store and take the mask off or wear it under their nose so they could ticket them. A woman was walking through an empty parking lot without a mask and was ticketed. Someone was in a barbershop and pulled his mask down for a few seconds to take a drink of water and a police officer happened to be walking by and that person was ticketed. I think a reasonable person would agree that this enforcement was overreach. I get the seriousness of the virus, but you have to give people a little breathing room. If a person is walking in an empty parking lot or on a back residential street and is not wearing a mask, but has a mask with them in case he or she comes to a situation where he or she can’t socially distance, then I don’t see the problem.

Sounds to me like Miami has found a great way to fill its coffers by oppressively fining people over mask wearing. Glad I don’t live there, especially as hot as it gets.

It baffles me that so many people have gone to such extremes on this issue. It should be perfectly okay to hate wearing a face mask. It should be okay to say it out loud, and hope for the mandates to end at some point. It should be alright to expect and fervently hope that we’ll get to a point at which this nightmare is either ended or mitigated. Otherwise, why go on living? I HATE living this way, and I don’t have it as bad as a whole lot of people do. Telling people that they don’t have the right to their feelings is toxic, and labeling them as “assholes” because you make assumptions about their character based on their masking habits is extremely limiting and offensive. Obviously, people who feel this way about other people are assholes themselves. Are there really people out there who think the whole world should be expected to accept living like this from now on? It blows my mind! As long as people are complying, what’s it to you, anyway?

I particularly love it when people compare mask wearing to wearing a seatbelt, or they compare going outside maskless with drunk or reckless driving. It’s absolute lunacy. I think, if seeing someone’s bare face outside in a sparsely populated area makes you compare them to drunk drivers or reckless people, you should simply do your best to avoid them. That’s what I do when I see someone on the road who drives erratically. I let them go ahead and get away from them. I don’t fan the flames by flipping them off or cursing at them through my window. Doing that in Germany can get you a pretty stiff fine, actually. It’s against the law to insult people or shoot the bird at them. Seems like doing one’s best to avoid problems is the better way to get through life. But… that’s just me.

Sigh… I really think Derek Thompson’s article is a good one. It gave me hope to read it. And, if people had taken the time to read it, they’d find that he consulted “experts” before he shared his thoughts. He’s quoted a Harvard educated epidemiologist, for Christ’s sakes, yet so many people feel the need to claim that Thompson is being “irresponsible” by giving people hope that things will get better! I would certainly listen to Julia Marcus of Harvard Medical School talking about COVID-19 and mask wearing than I would some jerk commenting on The Atlantic’s Facebook page.

Anyway… if you read all of this blog post and don’t think it’s an “asshole detector”, I thank you. I really think these hyper-vigilant, hyper-neurotic, nagging mask cheerleaders are how we wind up with right wing nutjobs like Marjorie Taylor Greene and straight up narcissistic creeps like Donald Trump in charge. There needs to be balance in all things… and that includes mask mandates. But maybe I’m just an asshole who needs to STFU. If you honestly think that about me, I hope you will take it as a cue to find someone else’s blog to read. 😉

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complaints, disasters, mental health

What’s the point?

This morning, as Bill and I were waking up to another day of COVID-19 life, I read a couple of articles in The New York Times about the plight of today’s youth. The first article was about how the United States might hope to reopen schools soon and why it’s so necessary for the mental and emotional well-being of young people. The second was about the youth of Europe and how many of them are becoming despondent because of the toll the pandemic is taking on their budding lives. In both articles, mental health issues were cited as major reasons why young people are suffering so much right now.

Both articles hit home for me, even though COVID-19 was not on the radar when I was young. I remember my teens and twenties as an especially difficult time for me. I suffered significantly from anxiety and depression during those years, mainly because I wasn’t sure what my place in the world was. I didn’t have tons of friends or boyfriends, so those years weren’t especially fun for me in terms of a social life. I did have some fun, mind you, and compared to a lot of people, I was fairly privileged. But I wasn’t doing what most young people do when they’re young. I worried excessively about the future and dwelled a lot on the past. It all kind of came to a head when I was in my mid twenties. I had a crisis and felt compelled to seek psychiatric help. I remember wondering back then what the point of living was.

Remembering what I was like in those days and how anxious and hopeless I felt, even if I did appear to be resilient, I think about what it must be like for the young people of 2021. These young folks have been raised in very anxious times. For most of their youths, they’ve had to worry about violence in the form of school shootings and foreign and domestic terrorism. Today’s twenty year olds were born around the time of 9/11, which is when the world really seemed to change a lot. They grew up hearing about people being kidnapped and beheaded in faraway lands. Maybe some of them saw their parents go off to war, never to come home again. All the while, the cost of living kept rising.

From the very beginning of this COVID-19 crisis, I’ve had a soft spot for the young. This should be the time when they’re allowed to be free… to explore relationships, try new things, travel, make life altering decisions. They should be enjoying school, dating, learning to drive, starting their first jobs, taking field trips… But thanks to the pandemic, along with the chaos that comes from having incompetent and criminal world leaders like Donald Trump, those normal milestones are being curtailed or delayed for most of them.

In my day, if young people couldn’t find a job in a field they enjoyed, there was always restaurant work. Waiting tables is a great skill– one that’s usually portable and plentiful. But thanks to COVID-19, a lot of restaurant and retail work has been sharply curtailed. And while some young people might be glad for the extra free time, bills still have to be paid. Some of these young folks are halfway to earning college degrees that they may or may not ever get to use or be able to pay for. In the case of the article about the European young people, a lot of them were saying they didn’t see the point of continuing their educations, given the lack of jobs. Many of them report feeling suicidal, and those who have mental health issues are having worse problems. Some of those who were mentally healthy are developing depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, and mental health experts are hard pressed to be able to help them. Inpatient beds in psychiatric wards in European hospitals are full.

I think about athletes who have been preparing years for the 2020 Olympics. The Summer Games were postponed until this year, and now it looks like they could even be canceled. I think about someone like Simone Biles, who is a great gymnast who’s fighting the same enemy of all great gymnasts… time. She’s in her early 20s. This is when a lot of female gymnasts retire because their bodies don’t cooperate as well as they used to. She was hoping for another Olympic bid, but may not get her chance if the pandemic doesn’t come under control soon.

I think about young ballerinas who have trained their whole lives to be great dancers. But the pandemic forced live entertainment to shut down. What do they do now? The same goes for budding musicians and actors who have spent their whole young lives preparing for a reality that, at least for now, has radically changed. The virus has made it a lot harder for young people to do things like date. This morning, I read a truly nauseating comment on an article about how caution has become “sexy”. Someone said they think masks are “turn ons” because it means a person who is wearing one isn’t a sociopath and cares about others. But face masks cover up the face, which takes away a significant conduit for non-verbal communication. The masks are further isolating and a visible reminder of how fucked up things are today.

For the record, I don’t agree with the idea that a person who doesn’t want to wear a mask might be a sociopath. Mask wearing isn’t normal. It’s not comfortable or convenient. It makes perfect sense to me that many people don’t want to wear them. Not wanting to wear masks doesn’t necessarily make people sociopathic, and while the articles about this phenomenon go into more detail as to why some vehement anti-maskers may have sociopathic tendencies, a lot of people never read beyond the headlines. While I can see the idea that a person who flat out refuses to wear a mask could be considered a sociopath if he or she has other sociopathic traits, I don’t think that’s always true. I think it’s a mistake to promote the idea that anyone who wears a mask is “caring”. That’s also not necessarily true. It could be that they simply don’t want to be fined or harassed. Likewise, I don’t think that all anti-maskers are necessarily people who are uncaring and sociopathic. Some of them are, but not all.

Then there are the mean spirited comments by people who feel the need to shame and lecture young people who are complaining about these unusual and unpleasant conditions we’re living in right now. Frankly, I think anyone who can’t see how difficult this situation is for the young should have an empathy check. It’s true that generations before us have had to deal with terrible adversities. And they dealt with the adversities without the benefit of the technology that we have today. But times were different in those days. The people of the past had some things that we don’t have. I don’t think, for instance, that there was as much pressure to perform or achieve. A person could get by with less. People had closer connections with each other, and there was more of an emphasis on family.

When you’ve grown up in a hyperactive society like ours, where both parents work just to keep the lights on and you’ve been taught since birth that you have to achieve to get into college or find a job– and then all of that is taken away because of a virus– it can be very difficult to cope. It can make anyone wonder what the point is. Especially when, in those other times of adversity, people could literally lean on each other for support. Now, they have to do it on a Zoom call because being in close contact with others is a no no. Humans were meant to touch each other. It’s a need that most of us have. But right now, it’s forbidden, and that’s causing people some real angst.

I understand it, although I wasn’t living in pandemic conditions when I was in my 20s. I felt like I was trying to do so much to make it in the world. I made some good choices that led me to where I am, but I was also very lucky. I have been feeling kind of depressed and hopeless lately, but I also realize that I’m lucky to be dealing with this now, instead of back then… I would have absolutely HATED being locked down with my parents. And even given the fact that I was pretty reclusive when I was single and I relied on my jobs for human interaction, I think I would have HATED dealing with lockdown in my 20s. I was always worried about making ends meet in those days. I think it would be even harder now.

Count me among those who feel great compassion for the young. I think they should get more priority in the vaccination drive. And I am one of those who isn’t going to tell them to “suck it up and drive on”. I don’t think that’s a particularly good or helpful comment in most situations. It often comes from a place of privilege and a lack of empathy for others. Dare I say it? The hyper anal, mask-wearing, middle-aged person who shames a young person for feeling sad and hopeless is probably more of a sociopath than they realize. Personally, I think we should make more of an effort to help the young get back into life. My husband’s daughter is a young mother of two. She and her husband need to be healthy because they have small children to support. The 21 year old college student should be given a chance to launch– to finish their education and get to work. Those of us who have already had a chance should be more mindful of how hard this is for the young.

Once again… I feel kind of grateful to be childless.

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