As I am in yet another airport this Monday, I have been intrigued by the hysteria over lifting of the mask mandates on airplanes and other public modes of transportation. Of course, this hysteria is played out on the airwaves and appears to be ”ginned up” by those who are driven by what appears to be political motivations.
Some of the more outrageous things I have read and heard include a protracted debate over whether Malcom X would have worn a mask, the fact that the pilots, flight attendants, and others who work at the airport are “outraged” over the lifting of the mask mandate and are considering a walk out, and countless concerns over what to do if one is harassed for wearing a mask. Let’s unpack each of these with some actual context.
I have no idea what Malcom X’s view on mask wearing would be and frankly I’m rather uninterested in his view on the matter as he is deceased. I am equally uninterested in what Ronald Reagan, Gandhi, or any other historical figure would be thinking or doing. I suspect that, depending on the issue of the day, they would all choose to comply or not according to their own views. I am gratified that I have yet to see a meme where Jesus is depicted endorsing either side of the debate, but I suspect that might be on the horizon. You can be sure the author of such a work will most likely not be a Christian as is usually the case when these sorts of divisive works.
I have spent a significant portion of three days last week in airports and on planes and can report a few realities. Based on the crews I’ve encountered, including TSA and gate agents, it appears that around 15% are wearing masks. Depending on the airport, I have seen a disparate number of those TSA agents with masks. I have experienced a low of zero percent to a high of what appears to be around 40%.
Turning to flight crews and gate agents my experience is well south of 20%. Comments like, “I am so over this mask thing” are more akin to my experience. In fairness, I only spoke with maskless flight attendants as those were the only ones I encountered directly on my flights. One pilot claimed that they had quit wearing masks in the cockpit over a year ago. Based on these experiences, it appears that there is little credence to the claims that there is any “outrage” among the broader flight staff community. As is always the case, there are likely some with very loud voices who feel differently.
Turning next to the claim of general uneasiness at the airports and taunting those, I experienced no taunting and very little uneasiness. Based on my personal experiences it appears that somewhere less than 15% of the travelers are choosing to don masks.
I found it fascinating that in my home airport RSW there was very differing mask usage. On Thursday and Friday my experience was that less than 3% of those traveling were masked. On Saturday, I encountered a much higher level of travelers who chose to don masks, with the number being closer to 20%. I see this as statistically different and have yet to determine what might have driven the disparity. Nevertheless, there appeared to be a significantly heightened level of uneasiness on Saturday at my home airport.
My wife even commented that one masked couple, which whom we were in proximity with, both appeared quite agitated by our presence, maskless. No words were spoken between us but we both felt a bit uneasy by their demeanor. After careful reflection, I was left with the belief that it was less about my not wearing a mask and more about my DeSantis 2022 t-shirt that precipitated the apparent disdain.
The only disruption I encountered was a mother admonishing her children for not wearing their masks. It appeared to me that the children, likely all less than 10, preferred not to wear the masks as was the case with most of the other children in the airport. I do not know the circumstances, but I did feel a great deal of empathy for those kiddos. I found myself wrestling with possible scenarios including immunocompromised children or loved ones to a hypervigilant parent teaching their children the finer points of fear. I was left to conclude that there was no rationale that I could contemplate that gave me comfort.
After further reflection, I suspect that there will always be those who go to extremes like the individuals causing scenes over masks. There will always be agitators on both sides of an issue that create a kerfuffle. My advice is to ignore such encounters or (if extreme) report those causing them to authorities. Masked or unmasked, law enforcement should want all of us to treat each other with dignity and respect.
It seems to me that if you believe you should wear a mask in the airport you should do so, and be respected for your choice. If you feel like it is unsafe to be on a plane with others not wearing masks, then perhaps choosing another mode of transit is the best option for you. I know dozens of people who chose not to travel when the masks were mandated. Some felt it was unsafe for them to do so citing anxiety and other risks. Regardless of your views, we all should be celebrating freedom and a migration to normalcy. Mask or no mask it is your choice.
Closing with Jesus and his thoughts on the matter. Based on my understanding of his teachings he would likely say “please stop hating”. He would likely add, that :”Love Thy Neighbor” thing, I meant it.