Mask-Wearing Isn’t Just for Mardi Gras
In two days, I’ll celebrate my 26th year in Paris. Hard to believe. The years rolled by faster and faster. Time being relative, our lives speed up as we age like a roll of toilet paper spinning faster as the paper is used. Maybe that’s not a very appropriate image to equate with aging, but think of it like this: one year out of an age of 20 is a lot higher percentage-wise than one year out of an age of 60, and so each year that passes is a lot less poignant than the one before. I hope you get the point.
When I got back to Paris Monday afternoon, I had immediate culture shock. The sun was out, but it was cool and crisp like a normal fall day. Fortunately I was prepared with a jacket, having come from the sunny seaside and high temperatures. The buildings were gray, not yellow or ochre or pink. The hustle-bustle at the train station with travelers coming and going was frenetic. There was a long line for taxis and even that was chaotic. The traffic made a lot of noise and drivers honked, sometimes for no apparent reason.
The south isn’t at all like that. It’s calm, relaxed, quieter, easier. I had become accustomed to that having spent almost two months there. I wore sunglasses 90% of the time, while in Paris they weren’t needed, even with the sun out…it’s almost never quite bright enough to warrant them. They had fallen to the bottom of my bag and now likely won’t see the light of day until I head south again.
My daughter and I had one evening together before she boarded a flight headed to the U.S. the next day. She reported that Charles de Gaulle airport was a ghost town and that she had an entire row to herself in the Air France jet. Flying has become a pleasure, thanks to the pandemic…with the exception of needing to wear a mask for the entire trip.
Feeling the need to settle in as quickly as possible, I headed over to Café Charlot for lunch yesterday. Only the tables on the terrace were taken as most people are still opting for dining al fresco. My usual table waited for me, the second one from the left against the back wall. I was the only person inside for a while. The waiters and manager seemed happy to see me back. They bestowed a gift on me—a Café Charlot imprinted mug I could take home and use every day. Then, as is their habit, they added a little something special to the “plat du jour,” on the house—their delicious green bean salad they know I like so much. It made me feel right at home once again, making me feel less bothered by the culture shock of going from a colorful environment to a “greige” one.
(“Greige” = Gray + Beige. It’s what I think is a putrid color that most people confuse with “Taupe.” It’s particular to Paris. Lots of people disagree with me, but my eyes take in bright color and manifest happiness. Greige just depresses me. For fun reading about this confusion, see How to Tell the Difference Between Taupe and Greige at kylieminteriors.ca/.)
Everyone is wearing masks, at least almost everyone. My daughter is one of those who thinks the mask-wearing isn’t the answer, based on information she’s read about who is most at risk from the virus. There was a small anti-mask protest in Paris this past weekend that attracted only about 200 to 300 people. Of them, 123 were fined €135 each for not wearing their masks. The protesters believe it’s against their rights and that we are being manipulated by the government by using fear tactics that have no real scientific justification. They want the freedom to choose for themselves without penalties.
The rest of us just want to feel safe. We do know that the virus adversely affects those over the age of 65 who have underlying health conditions. And we do know that “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus—particularly when used universally within a community setting,” said CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield. Mask-wearing is mandatory in enclosed public spaces across most of France, especially in areas where physical distancing is difficult. I personally believe that either way, I’d rather be safe than sorry and protect not only myself, but others in the progress.
Three-quarters of the French agree with me, according to a recent poll. Those who are angry with the government have other reasons, too, citing the cost of the masks that they believe they shouldn’t have to bear. The State won’t finance masks for everyone, even though wearing them is compulsory. Paris isn’t the only city to face protests—they are happening in Berlin and London, too. Berlin had a showing of 18,000 anti-mask protestors compared to our approximate 300.
The U.S. has a large contingency of anti-mask sentiment. It’s become a theme as part of the country’s political divide, and meanwhile the cases of Coronavirus are still rising. The CDC is calling on Americans to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 citing case studies that show masks prevent it. We are proof of the pudding. So, like it or not, that’s life in the big city these days.
And you know what? I’m happy to wear a mask…as long as I’m not confined to home.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group