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GARY SMITH: All washed up

Clean thoughts on a worldwide pandemic by Gary Smith | June 12, 2020 at 1:00 a.m.

Of masks and men. OK, at least of masks and me. And with apologies to John Steinbeck ...

• I've made a change in my mask-wearing process. Gone is the "up-from-the-neck-to-as-high-as-you-want-it-to-go" gaiter, mostly because it was tough to put on and left me with the feeling that I could easily strangle myself, which sort of defeats the purpose of wearing a mask in the first place.

In its place I've taken to wearing a "sort-of-looks-like-something-a-medical-professional-would-wear" mask with elastic straps that, more or less (sometimes, unfortunately, less) fit over my ears. Yeah, good luck with that. That's a lot of real estate to cover.

The upside of this, besides obviously not strangling myself, is that I now no longer look like a narco gunman preparing to rob your bank. Now I look like Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I'm going to say that's a good thing, mostly because most people my age have blocked out ever knowing who the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were (one of the less magic moments of child-rearing was being repeatedly subjected to TMNT. Sort of like K-Pop for reptiles). But, I could be wrong.

• Speaking of masks (which I frequently do), I very much believe you should wear one. The concern is, being a hearing-challenged person (and not just selectively, as the Lovely Mrs. Smith may charge), I wear hearing aids. And hearing aids and elastic straps don't necessarily mix. So, if I'm going to be in a situation where I have to wear a mask, I tend not to wear my hearing aids.

So, I can't hear. And, since the masks tend to make my glasses fog up, I can't really see. And since I can't tell how loudly I'm speaking and people tend to have a tough time hearing me anyway (see: columnist and not commentator), I can't be heard.

And, since I have long hair now, I'm basically the star of the rock opera "Tommy." If, instead of Roger Daltrey, the hero was a middle-aged white guy who can't play pinball. Wait, that might very well be Roger Daltrey these days. Well, you get the point.

• And, finally, speaking of masks ...

I am fairly (OK, exceptionally) germophobic. I have carried hand sanitizer for a while, use my foot or a paper towel to open bathroom doors (which is sort of off-putting in people's houses, but ...) and do the whole thing where you scrape your fingernails on the palms of your hands to get soap under them.

Given all that, I have gotten sick of washing my hands. Sick, sick, sick. I know, better to be sick of washing my hands than sick from not (see, Mom, I was listening) but the whole 20-second, hum the birthday song thing is giving me an eye twitch. And, since I'm got allowed to touch my eyes, well, you can imagine my frustration.

The thing is, despite my hand-washing fatigue (probably a syndrome we'll be studying for years to come), I still do. Habit and health are a powerful combo. And, during these uncertain times, it seems literally the least I can do to keep myself and others healthy. Especially because I was compulsively doing it anyway.

I also don't think I'm alone. I mean, most of us at least give lip service to the idea we need to wash our hands. Leave a public restroom without washing your hands (hypothetically, since I would never leave a public -- or private, for that matter -- bathroom without washing my hands unless I was on a stretcher) and you're going to at least get some looks and well-deserved public shaming. I mean, not to go all 16-year-old-girl on you but, GROSS!

I wash my hands compulsively because my parents always told me I should, And they told me I should based on medical advice. Doctors and other medical professionals also wash their hands frequently. In fact, since they tend to do this at the first of every appointment I've ever had, I have probably paid not a small sum of money over time for doctors, nurses and dentist to scrub until you see the lather, being sure to get between the fingers.

Doctors tell us to wash our hands. And we do. And instruct our children to do so. And publicly shame those who don't. And doctors tell us to wear a mask in public. And we suddenly become epidemiologists, conspiracy theorists and really bad constitutional lawyers. And, if recent numbers mean anything, sicker.

It's a strange world.


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