At the beginning of the year, I wrote about how nice it would be if we as a country learned to wear face masks when we're sick.
Eight months in, I guess that happened. Well, there is the fear of the coronavirus. Or the fear of being prosecuted, possibly criminally, for not wearing a mask when you're out and about. I don't think we would've done so without those two factors. But it's come to a point when all of us wear a mask automatically, the same way we don't wear jeans anymore. I mean, little kids probably now associate wearing a mask with leaving the house, and basing on the reactions Shalla's nephew and niece make, wearing a mask must be a good thing.
I even think we're going to swing to the other extreme now at some point, and berate anyone who doesn't wear a mask even when most of us have been vaccinated and the pandemic has long subsided. I don't know when that is, but I'm sticking to that prediction. I mean, you know how we do.
Sure, for the most part it's still not comfortable. Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. I get why we have to wear one, particularly in these times. But - and I say this as the guy who walks to the grocery every week, and who has to catch his breath after walking somewhat long distances - it's not comfortable. Yes, there are numbers that say our oxygen intake doesn't really go down when wearing a mask. And maybe I am finally acclimatizing to it, because it hasn't happened to me in a while, at least not as severely. But, and I mean no disrespect, it's not comfortable. But you have to suck it up. It's the sacrifices you have to make, or so they say.
Face shields, however, are a different matter.
I don't know how to defend it. I say this because I originally planned to end this essay with "I hate face shields with a fucking passion" but, really, I'm just inconvenienced by it. I got us face shields when I got wind that the government is going to make wearing it mandatory, on top of the face masks. I didn't get it. Sure, it's supposedly to protect the eyes, which is still a possible entry point for the virus. Sure, the virus is aerosolized - let me review my notes - which means it lingers in the air for longer, so even if you keep your distance from people, there's a chance you might still get it. But, possibly, I was annoyed at how this regulation came about, or perhaps, I'm annoyed at how this clicks with my increasing cynicism towards the government's response to the pandemic, which, like in most other things, is "do the bare minimum and let the people pick up the slack". Are there studies that definitely say face shields offer a degree of protection that face masks alone can't provide? Or did someone at the IATF suggest face shields and everyone agree that, hey, this could work.
So maybe I do hate them with a fucking passion. But, again, no. I am just inconvenienced by it. I knew I had to use one at some point, especially as the guy that does the errands while we're still in this state of suspended animation. It became mandatory to wear them in offices; I'm not going to one anyway, not at this moment. It became mandatory to wear them in public transport; I'm not using it anyway, not at this moment. And then it became mandatory to wear them in malls, and I'm, like, "okay, fine."
The face shields I got us were the ones sold at the convenience store downstairs. You know, the sort that you wear around your head like a headband, the sort that has "Face Shield" written in the front. I could get better face shields at some point, but Shalla and I wear glasses, and most of the supposedly better ones are the sort that you wear on your ears - so that rules them out.
I went to the grocery on Saturday. I figured I'd try to wear it on the way to the mall, which brings me to my second gripe: I'm a sweaty person. My forehead can get sticky, and the styrofoam holding the face shield to my head will get sticky, and it makes for an uncomfortable walk, and perhaps an awkward walk, because you think the face shield will fall down as you make your way to wherever. And then someone catches you and tells you off, which makes it more awkward. I mean, I guess it isn't a problem if you spend a lot of time in an airconditioned room, but that's not me at the moment, and perhaps for a while.
I reach the grocery and realize that I have to catch my breath for the first time in a while. Face masks don't reduce your oxygen intake because it is, at least, made of breathable material. Face shields aren't. But, again, that's just me. I have no studies backing that up.
It is a little more annoying. It is inconvenient. But I have to suck it up. It's the sacrifices I have to make, or so they say. Just a few more sacrifices and maybe soon we'll figure out what to do with this pandemic. Maybe we'll get around to doing proper contact tracing. Maybe we'll get around to supporting the people who have lost jobs because we decided closing down a big chunk of the economy is the easiest way to get out of this rut. Maybe we'll get off our asses and not wait for a vaccine like our leaders want us to do. But until then, we have to pick up the slack.
I hate what these face shields represent with a fucking passion.
But then, I thought there was a workaround. We were required to wear face shields to get into the mall, but not to walk to the mall. So that's what I did when I returned to the mall, with Shalla, later that afternoon. And I may have not worn the face shield for most of the trip, because I saw people who weren't wearing theirs at the bookstore. I mean, the Shang had those thermometers mounted on a stand and with a bigger monitor, the sort where you stand in front of it. No security guards pointing a scanner at you, so that's less human contact, or whatever passes for it these days. But, for that thing to actually get your temperature, you have to remove your face shield, otherwise it'll scan something else and give a different result. I mean, the security guards themselves said so.
Of course, that wasn't to last. I went back to the mall last Friday to get a haircut, and now there was a sign saying everyone is required to wear a face shield. My Mandaluyong barber (as opposed to my Alabang barber) thought I was sweaty from the warmer temperatures inside the mall. In the past six months, it never felt warmer to me.
I went to the bank earlier that day, intending to bring a face shield, but forgetting it anyway. There was also a sign there that said I had to wear one, but the security guards were nice enough - although you be the judge if this was a smart decision - to let me borrow one. It was a makeshift one, also the headband sort.
I was chatting with the teller, who wore a face shield that you wear on your ears - on top of her eyeglasses.
"Hindi ka ba nahihirapan?" I asked her.
"Nakakahilo minsan," she answered.
Yes, that other thing. I've been wearing glasses for most of my life and I guess I've gotten used to seeing reflections, but the ones on my face shield are different. It does distort your view a bit. That, and the sweat, and the difficulty breathing.
"Pero masasanay ka rin," she conceded. I had no choice but to agree. Maybe I will get used to it, the same way I got used to wearing a face mask. And it starts tomorrow, when a new city ordinance requires everyone to wear a face shield whenever you're outside. The condominium administration is imposing fines, to boot: repeated offenders will pay twenty grand per flag. Maybe in six months, this will all be normal, albeit begrudgingly, because, well, while I know I have to wear them to keep everyone safe, I still hate what these face shields represent with a fucking passion.