healthcare, law

Freaking out over faltering federal mask mandates…

Well… just as I predicted last year, the time has come for governments around the world to reverse course on the pandemic. Not every government, mind you… I think I read that Australia is still pretty locked down, trying to keep COVID-19 at bay. But European countries are trying to find a way to open up a bit this summer, especially as people are finally getting vaccinated. In the United States, there was an even bigger surprise. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has stated that both fully vaccinated adults may now ditch their face masks indoors and outdoors in most situations.

This is a contrast to the advice given two weeks ago, that vaccinated adults could ditch their masks outside– and they could also potentially ditch them inside, but only if they’re with other fully vaccinated adults. Now they’re evidently saying it doesn’t matter if others aren’t also vaccinated. Masks among vaccinated people will, evidently, only be necessary at medical facilities and on public transportation, like trains, buses, and airplanes. A month ago, there was all this news about deadly new variants and how we’ll never reach herd immunity. And now, the news seems to be signaling the end, or at least a pause, in the worst part of the pandemic.

I remember last year, when all of this shit started, I told Bill that eventually, the government would be asking people to venture out again. They would do it because the economy would be in a shambles. I also predicted that many people would not want to venture out. They would be too shell-shocked and traumatized by all of the COVID-19 doom porn, even with all of the safety precautions in place. Sure enough, based on the comments I read on The New York Times piece I linked above, that is what has come to pass. Governments are now saying they want to reopen things– New York City has even made a plea for tourists to return. In Europe, governments are trying to find ways to open up to tourists so they can make money. Vaccines are supposedly working pretty well, although new COVID-19 variants are also coming out all the time. The face masks are a downer, and allowing people to dispense with them if they get the shot(s) is one way to encourage vaccine cooperation.

The funny thing is, all year I’ve been reading indignant comments from pro-mask people about how science changes, and that’s why in early March of 2020, we were all being told NOT to buy face masks by the U.S. Surgeon General, and then that advice had changed within weeks. Now, since the CDC is saying that vaccinated people will be able to enjoy some freedom, many of the same people who were once extolling the virtues of science and scientists, are now bitching about how it’s too soon to loosen face masking and allowing people to unmask will be a disastrous decision.

Quite a few people seem to think this rule relaxation was done purely for political reasons. Many people have expressed that they believe unvaccinated “anti-maskers” will use this new guidance as a reason to flout the rules. So many people, who had once praised Dr. Fauci and the CDC, are now saying that the decision to relax the mask rules is a terrible, unscientific idea that spells DOOM for everyone. And, perhaps rightfully so, people are saying that people have no honor, and there will be no way to enforce people to keep taking precautions until they have been vaccinated. Fake vaccination cards are already becoming a problem, and the conspiracy theorists worry that the vaccines have chips in them that will invade their privacy (seriously?).

What happened to all of the respect for scientists? All of a sudden, because the rules have abruptly changed, just as they did last year, the scientists are wrong and simply pandering to politicians? And now, all of the people who, a couple of months ago, were liberally quoting and religiously following the scientists, are saying they are going to rely on their own common sense? Isn’t that the same behavior they were shaming the “anti-vaxxers” and “anti-maskers” for doing? Also, again, I notice that the “experts” all seem to be saying different things… which means that everybody has to decide for themselves which one is correct, and which course of action will suit them best. Sounds a lot like life, to me.

Here’s what I think about those so-called “anti-vaxxers” and “anti-maskers”. First off, many of those people never followed the rules anyway, so it’s doubtful that this rule change will affect them. I mean… if they get sick from COVID-19, they’ll get sick. Some won’t get very sick. Some will die. That’s how it’s been all year. Lots of people are commenting that, despite being vaccinated, they will keep wearing a mask so they “won’t be mistaken for a Republican” or “to make other people feel better”– that is, the ones who are comforted by the sight of someone whose face they can’t see fully. Others, who have children that can’t yet be vaccinated, are saying they are going to keep wearing a mask for that reason, even though last year so many people were saying that the masks are intended to protect other people, and not the wearer. Now they’re saying that the masks also protect the wearer, which is probably what they should have said from the beginning. But see? The information is constantly changing, isn’t it?

Personally, I don’t find seeing everyone in face masks comforting. They are a constant reminder of how fucked up things are, how lonely I am (especially when my half vaccinated husband has to travel on business for weeks on end), and how I don’t enjoy this lifestyle at all. That’s just how I feel about it, though… and the person who IS comforted by face masks also has a right to their feelings and opinions about this issue. Fortunately, it’s not like face masks have been outlawed, so they are free to keep doing what they’ve always been doing. Given how many people in the USA were completely uncooperative regarding COVID-19 safety mandates anyway, I don’t think much is going to change in the wake of this new guidance.

Sadly, what it will boil down to is money… and the fact that the safety rules are very expensive in terms of the economy. Lots of people cheer when they read stories about anti-maskers being arrested, fined, jailed, or banned from services like airlines. But all of those measures cost money. Banning someone from an airline for not wearing a face mask often doesn’t just mean that one person is banned– it also means their immediate family will be effectively banned, even if they weren’t officially so by their airline, as will any loyal extended family members and friends who happen to be on their side of the issue. That could add up to a lot of missed revenue that affects people other than the folks running the airlines… it also might affect hotels, restaurants, tour operators, taxi drivers, and even retailers that sell travel gear. If I wanted to, I could probably sit here for an hour and think of all of the people that are potentially affected when someone gets banned for life from flying.

Now… I do think some good can come out of this past year of COVID-19 hell. Perhaps employers will rethink some of their more destructive policies, like encouraging workers to come into an office setting when they’re sick. Maybe working from home will become an even more viable solution for companies, which could mean that more children are raised by their actual parents instead of at a day care. Maybe there will be less vehicular congestion and accompanying air pollution, too, since people can roll out of bed and walk ten feet to their “office” instead of sitting in traffic for hours every day. And maybe airlines will stop cramming people into seats like sardines… although I would be VERY surprised if that happens.

I do think wearing the mask is a good idea if one is sick. Judging by the slow cold and flu season, they are helpful in that regard. However… I don’t think the enforced mask fashion is a sustainable concept. I’m glad to see it going. I hope it stays gone, although I’m not going to hold my breath. Fortunately, thanks to the vaccine and staying the fuck away from people (which is really the best way to avoid getting sick from a virus), it’s still possible for me to hold my breath.

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complaints

If you’re too busy to read, you’re too busy to comment…

Today’s topic is about one of my many pet peeves, which will probably seem silly and very petty to some people, but is a genuine irritant to me. If you’re not in the mood for pointless griping, you might want to move on. Here goes.

A few days ago, I shared a story with my Facebook friends about a raccoon who went to one of Germany’s many Christmas markets and got drunk on Gluhwein. The story’s headline was “Drunken raccoon staggers through German Christmas market, passes out”. Unlike a lot of people who saw that headline, laughed, and moved on, I took the time to read the article. I knew it wasn’t going to end well for the raccoon, because just under the headline, there was a sub-headline that read,

“The tipsy raccoon apparently couldn’t hold back from having a good time at Erfurt’s Christmas market. However, the furry creature’s daytime drinking binge ended in grisly fashion.”

It turned out the raccoon, whose welfare had been safeguarded until the fire brigade could pick it up, wasn’t taken to an animal shelter as expected. Instead, the raccoon was given to a hunter, who then shot it. I was reminded of a discussion I’d had with a college friend who had friends under the impression that there are no guns in Germany. I tagged him in the post and wrote, “Now see… there are guns in Germany after all.”

What did this friend do? Like so many other people, he laughed at the headline without reading or even skimming the article. My comment about guns wasn’t even enough to tip him off that maybe he should read the article to see why I mentioned guns. The piece, by the way, wasn’t even behind a paywall. But I empathized with him, since I had the same initial reaction of laughter at the headline. I was almost tempted to share the article without reading it myself. So I wrote this:

You would think he might change his reaction after this comment, but he didn’t… I guess he still thinks it’s funny.

What made this even more annoying to me, though, were more laughter reactions from people who didn’t even bother to read the comments on the thread. After a few more laughter reactions, I edited the post thusly… and I know it sounds petty and stupid, but I can’t help it. I was genuinely irked.

I know… I know… but dammit, this bugs me.

I remember ranting on my old blog about how much it annoys me when people chime in without reading. Years ago, there was a great site called Television Without Pity, which had snarky commentary about television shows. TWoP also had lively forums with hilarious, witty comments about the featured shows and their recaps. Those boards must have been run by a very anal retentive lot, because there were many rules about posting there and actual consequences for those who broke the rules. One of the cardinal rules was that posters must read the previous comments before posting a new one. I wish I could find the actual rules now, because I liked the way the moderators explained why reading before commenting is so important. Basically they wrote something like this:

“But I don’t want to read fifty comments before making my own very important point!”

“Oh you don’t, huh? You want people to read your thoughts, but you don’t want to give them the same courtesy? Well, fuck you.”

And then there followed a very good explanation as to why the moderators stringently enforced their rule about reading before commenting and why it’s so rude not to take a minute to read. Unfortunately, since the forum was dismantled, I can’t find the TWoP rules spelled out anymore. I’d like to frame them and hang them at the top of my Facebook page.

Since I can’t find Television Without Pity’s rules, here are a few reasons why I think it’s important to read first, and then comment or react. See the bottom of this post for an update 12/17/21.

  • There’s an excellent chance that your point has already been made by an earlier poster and thoroughly discussed by other thread participants.
  • Perhaps you don’t even have a clue what’s being discussed.
  • Maybe you’re about to make a jackass out of yourself by reacting inappropriately.
  • It’s the polite thing to do. It shows people that you’re interested in what someone else has to say and are paying attention to them.
  • It saves other people’s time and energy, since they don’t have to explain that your point has already been covered, is irrelevant, or inappropriate.

Think about this. If you were talking to someone face to face, how would you react if a third person came up and inserted themselves in your conversation without any concept about what you’ve been discussing? Say, for instance, you’re talking about how the weather led to a fatal car accident and someone else came up and started talking about socks. Or they said the same thing that you said five minutes ago. Or they started laughing about the weather, not knowing that someone had died because of it. It would be awkward and rude, right? Well, to me, it’s rude and awkward when this happens on social media. It really bugs me, even though I know I’ll never change it. I know… I know… build a bridge and get over it. Or start deleting the worst offenders.

A couple of days after the raccoon post, I wrote that Peter Frampton is coming to Frankfurt. I wondered if I would enjoy the concert. Several people opined. I like Frampton, but I have one of his more recent live albums and I didn’t care for it, even though I love Frampton Comes Alive! from 1976. At the same time, I know this would probably be my one chance to see him play, because he’s going to be retiring soon. He has a disease that affects his guitar playing. I knew about the disease, because I had read about it some months ago… probably when I bought that album I hadn’t enjoyed very much and wanted to know if something was up with his health. So when a friend was offering her opinion about Frampton, I mentioned that he has health issues and linked to the article about it. Then, the next day, someone else chimed in with this:

It wasn’t even a long thread. It wouldn’t have even taken a minute to skim over it to see that this point was made the day before. I can see not wanting to read 100 comments, but this thread had a fraction of that many responses. A quick glance at the earlier responses would have revealed a link to People.com with a headline about Frampton’s health issues.

On that same Frampton thread, someone left what seemed to be an inappropriate reaction– an angry emoji. I was puzzled, so I wrote this:

Lots of people scroll through their feeds and hit the reaction buttons without really reading first. Sometimes it’s simply someone who accidentally hit the “wrong” reaction, but I think a lot of times, it’s someone who isn’t actually reading but still feels the need to respond somehow. Not everything requires a response… especially if you aren’t paying attention. I’m not just picking on this friend. Many people do this. I’ve probably done it, too.

I pretty much hate the Facebook reaction buttons, anyway. They often end up being misused. I mean, I use them myself a lot, but I don’t think they’re very effective because most people don’t pay attention to what they’re reacting to. A lot of them seem to be in a trance, scrolling through the many conversations and postings, listlessly clicking as they scroll, halfway cognizant about what they’re “reacting” to. I go on Facebook and see that I have a ton of notifications, but they’re all “reactions” from the same person. And half of them don’t indicate any understanding of what was posted… they’re just reactions to be reactions. Like, the person just wants me to know that they saw my post, even if they didn’t actually read or understand it. It’s depressing, because the random “reactions” have a negative effect on effective communication. Personally, I find it disheartening when someone “reacts” inappropriately, making it clear that they didn’t even read. It seems oddly dismissive to me when I post a sad article about something and I get a laughing reaction. Or I post something I think is thought provoking and someone reacts with a sad face. I supposed I could just preface all of my posts with a request that people read and/or think before reacting or commenting, but that would seem hyper-controlling. And I don’t want to be hyper-controlling.

People are busy. I get that. And I tend to cut slack to certain people whom I know may not be as attentive as they otherwise might be. For instance, yesterday I shared a ten year old Facebook memory, because it happened to be the anniversary of the day we brought Zane into our family. I’ve been missing him a lot.

The person sending vibes probably doesn’t know about MacGregor, who was Zane’s “daddy” and best friend. MacGregor died in 2012, and Zane died on August 31st of this year. I know she had good intentions, since we are thinking of getting another dog.

If you think about it, posting before reading because you’re “too busy” to read what’s already been said or explained is likely to waste other people’s time. There’s a good chance you won’t be leaving a high quality comment that adds anything to the discussion and might even irritate the anally retentive types, like me. If you don’t like it when people waste your time, you should alter your behavior accordingly. Do unto others, and all that. If you’re too busy to read, you’re probably too busy to comment.

I read another article about a woman in Wisconsin who walked with a cane and had gone to renew her driver’s license. For some reason, the examiner told her that she needed to prove she could walk across the room without the cane before she could get her license renewed. The woman tried to walk without the cane, fell, and broke her wrist. The headline was this: “DMV made a woman walk without her cane before it would renew her license. She fell and broke her wrist.” I had a feeling that headline would prompt inappropriate comments, so I posted this to head them off:

Actually, I’m relatively pleased by these comments, which were appropriate.

The reason I suggested reading first is because the headline doesn’t reveal that Mary Wobschall, the woman in this story, died a few months later from other causes. I didn’t want to see people posting about her as if she was still living. Her estate is now suing the DMV because they didn’t handle her appropriately or do things by the book. The broken wrist and subsequent surgery could have been avoided, and the examiner wasn’t qualified to make a determination about the Mary Wobschall’s health. Taken from the article:

“According to the suit, if a DMV worker thinks an applicant needs to be seen by a medical professional, he or she is supposed to issue a 60-day temporary license. Wobschall’s suit says his wife was not issued that license and was told she had until the end of the month to renew or lose her license.”

“Making applicants who use canes or other “personal mobility devices” like crutches demonstrate they can walk without the device as a condition of getting a license violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and Wobschall’s constitutional guarantees of due process, according to the suit.”

I know I’ve said it before. I’m losing my patience with social media. It’s probably time I gave up Facebook and Twitter and any other platform that has me interacting with strangers. I’ve even been giving thought to giving up blogging, since I don’t think most people care about what I write, and some people only seem interested in using my writing against me– like the woman who lived in our previous house before we did and was keeping me under surveillance for four years. If she’s reading this, she should know that she’s not as anonymous as she thinks she is and two can play at her game. 😉 But really, I have no desire to stalk other people, and I completely understand that this is a petty grievance that I should probably let go of for my health’s sake. It would probably be a good thing if I went to a “Fuck It” retreat or learned yoga… or maybe got into drinking hot tea.

Edited to add on December 17, 2021

I found TWOP’s rules and explanations. I totally agree with their thoughts.

I can’t possibly read all these messages; I’d just like to post my own thoughts.

Oh, is that so? Well, that’s rather rude of you. If you have time to post, you have time to read what others have posted before you. 

Before you post, you are expected to read — and not rehash — the content in a thread from either the last 15 pages or the last 15 days, whichever makes the most sense. If a moderator mentions the “15/15” rule, this is what they’re talking about.

Confused? Okay: Let’s say you’re in the Lost episode thread; if the episode aired the night before, the thread will not go back 15 days, so you must read at minimum the last 15 pages. On the Buffy forums, some of those threads go back for years; in that case, you read the last 15 days’ worth of posts to bring you up to date. 

The idea here, basically, is for you to have read enough of the thread to give you a solid feel for what people have already said, so that you don’t repeat things people have mentioned twenty times already or derail the discussion by interrupting with a random question. It’s a conversational-manners issue. 

We know it’s a lot to read on some forums. Tough beans. Show your fellow posters the courtesy which you expect, and read what they’ve written to make sure you aren’t repeating what dozens of other people have already said. 

Again: 15 pages or 15 days, whichever applies. Please use common sense, and please do not argue the letter of the law with the mods when it is the spirit that counts. Be a good listener. 

And if you don’t read the other posts before adding your own, for the love of Mike, don’t say so. It’s obnoxious, the mods hate it, and it’ll earn you a boot. 

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