I’ve been avoiding visiting major urban retailers as much as possible, due to the coronamadness that has infected cities and major towns. Here in the Virginia Outback things are more relaxed, and it’s close to business as usual. But in the cities you’re far more likely to encounter people and commercial establishments that regard the edicts of Governor Ralph “Coonman” Northam with utmost seriousness and observe the masking and social distancing rules with something approaching religious zeal.
Readers may recall that I’ve been doing archaeological excavations in this house since Dymphna died, rooting through forty years’ worth of accumulated stuff (more than fifty years if you count the boxes and trunks that came down here from my mother’s house unopened). I’m organizing, consolidating, and curating materials accumulated over several generations.
I needed some shelving materials to rationalize some of the storage space, and that required a trip into town today to shop at Lowe’s. I wondered whether they would be enforcing Coonman’s masking bull, but I went on into the store anyway without a mask. They had no signs about masks, and only about 80% of the people there wore them, which was a relief. The young assistant who helped me wore a mask, but he didn’t seem concerned that I wasn’t wearing one. So that part of my itinerary went well.
While I was in the great metropolis I went to CVS (large chain pharmacy). As expected, they had a sign on the door about masks, saying that they are “required by law”. Which is nonsense — they are required by a gubernatorial executive order, which is not at all the same thing. The legislature of the Commonwealth of Virginia was not consulted. This particular order exceeds the governor’s statutory authority, and is thus unconstitutional. Furthermore, it is currently being litigated in court by Rob Schilling, a Charlottesville talk show host, and a pawnshop owner, also in Charlottesville.
So I went on into the store, brazenly unmasked. I was the only one there who refused to comply — 100% of the staff and other customers wore masks.
I could feel the dread weight of social pressure on my shoulders as I walked around the store, sticking out like a sore thumb in my selfish indifference to the well-being of others. I could have relieved the feeling by rushing back to the car and grabbing my mask out of the glove compartment, but I toughed it out.
I can understand why people give in to relentless social pressure. To resist it takes a conscious act of will that must be maintained continuously during one’s sojourns in public spaces. It’s very difficult and unpleasant not to do what everyone else is doing. But as a matter of principle, I considered it important not to comply with something so obviously arbitrary and insane.
There is a collective hysteria abroad in the land. The non-rural part of the land, that is — it’s not so bad out here, and it was good to come home.
When I stopped at the mailbox on my way in, I stood and chatted with my neighbor for a while. Neither of us was wearing a mask.