Is it time to hunker down, or resume our normal lives?
Covid recently hit a milestone for me personally. My hair cutter has had a long-standing policy of mandatory masking in her salon. It’s a reasonable accommodation to her preferences, despite the fact that I’ve long stopped wearing a mask in my office, have taken plane trips several times without masking, and I no longer recommend it except for my most frail and vulnerable patients.
Things came to a head a few months back when I witnessed an ugly scene transpiring in the salon. A guy came in for his haircut, was unmasked, and was politely asked to put one on. He refused, became belligerent, and then engaged in some nasty cross-talk with another (masked) customer. It was suggested that maybe this wasn’t the most opportune time for him to get a trim, and he left. Later, I heard his hair cutter call him to inform him he wouldn’t be welcome back due to his abusive behavior.
So, I figured, not a hill to die on, I’ll oblige the management of the salon when going in, as I did for several subsequent appointments. Then, I got a text from my hair cutter saying she’d have to cancel our next appointment—because she came down with Covid. She expressed frustration that, after all her precautions and boosters, she still had contracted it—no idea how. We rescheduled the appointment, and there she was a week later, recovered but masked—ostensibly to protect her customers lest she still be shedding virus.
So this week, I showed up for my appointment, and as I went up the elevator, I dutifully fumbled in my pockets for my mask—they’re showing up pretty much in every article of clothing I’ve worn since the pandemic began—but, no luck. OK, I reasoned, they have masks there, and they’ll give me one.
The elevator opened on the floor of the salon, and as I turned the corner, an unexpected sight greeted me: My hair cutter, who had been so scrupulous about masking, wasn’t wearing one. I walked in maskless, and nothing more was said.
What had changed?