Mask Man

We all know him.

This time he’s by the door of Marks and Spencers, with that “artfully unruly” grey hair. That open shirted grey jacket, to make sure people know he’s formal but relaxed. Very very short very forward older perplexed male.

“It would be an excellent idea though wouldn’t it,” he tells the vexed entry counting man at the opening to the food section. “You can see that, can’t you,” he reinforces himself. “Masks at the door. You have to sell masks at the door, the people without masks have to buy them at the door then you don’t have people without masks in the shop AND you make profit from the masks.” His eyes are flicking round with rage at the people in the store without masks. There aren’t many. There is one he keeps looking at in particular. She is about ten years younger than me, and still visible as she’s in the veg section near the entrance. The tone of her skin is the opposite to the speaker’s tone. She entered the shop just before him, and I entered just after.

He is wearing his designer mask, which looks great on him. Even though his mouth is covered he is still talking lots. She has no mask. She’s silently and respectfully going about her shopping, away from people as far as she can. Meanwhile little designer mask guy gets right up in tall guy’s grill about social distancing.

I’m in my very involved fiberglass gasmask, curious about the dynamic with this guy. I go invisible, doing the “switch off” I do that lets me listen unseen.

“Don’t you see! You shouldn’t let them in without masks,” spits our friend through his fabric. Our staff member is counting people in and out of the shop. He is literally twice as tall as this bulldog fellow. He towers over him, responding in the only way he can while at work – with non committal noises. He’s neither discouraging nor encouraging, he’s trying to count customers as this guy grinds away at his own self-importance.

“I’ll pass it to my manager,” he ventures in the hopes it’ll end the misery. “See that you do. You’re missing an opportunity here. And you’re letting people into the shop without masks. If you had masks to sell them you could make them all wear them or leave. You sell clothes here, don’t you? Sell masks.”

I find myself wondering who this conversation is for.

It’s not for the tall guy. He can’t affect shop policy. He is just trying to count customers while humouring a vocal customer who is deep into a triggerpoint issue about which he can be seen to have no official opinion.

It’s not for the customers without masks as they aren’t near enough for long enough to hear his exasperation with them despite his pointing.

Is it for him, this angry little chap? He’s clearly very comfortable in the life he’s carved out for himself, likely he’s in some sort of managerial role in the company his dad set up, shouting at people for not being him. He’ll get a few endorphins, at the cost of a lot of time and negative energy thrown at strangers. “I was right. How can they not see how I was right?”

Maybe next time he comes in to the store he’ll seek out the tall guy and ask why his ideas haven’t been implemented yet. Trade a bit more negative energy for a few more obscure kicks.

Or maybe it’s for me. Slightly broken dissipated artistic fool pretending to look at M&S orchids and doing a vanishing trick wearing a visible mask as he eavesdrops to sate his curiosity for human nature then writes about things he’s heard and learns nothing.

Maybe it’s so I can write about this familiar trope? Maybe it’s so I can issue this particular extremely valuable warning:

Don’t be the high-status-presenting person getting vocal with the low-status-presenting better genes person about your understanding of ideas.

Certainty is often mistaken for wisdom but it’s usually the opposite. There. Suck it, you small minded little … oh … the people that need to be reading this aren’t reading this. Ach.

As a listener, the little man’s whole monologue sounded dark. It sounded like there was no solution other than for the guy to go “yes sir sorry sir I will immediately have the maskless people pulled from the store by force and put into a gas chamber. That’ll teach them to wear masks ah ha ha ha ha ha!”

It’s hard for me not to write about masks in this environment. I’ll try next time. It’s front and centre thinking right now for all of us though. We think about them all the time. Going to the shop? Keys. Wallet. Bag. Mask.

I agree that they can help us stop infecting others. I think we should be considerate of each others safety. But sometimes it feels like extremism, in either direction. Both the “We should be completely wrapped in condoms” camp and the “let’s all get naked and spit at each other” camp.

The worst thing in the world is extremism. Extremists have to be impaled and skinned alive.

Yes that’s a joke. I’m hoping it’ll stop people piling into me for even broaching this hot topic without offering my standpoint on it in black and white. And green.


“He’s got his thumb up! What’s he approving of?” This is an old photo. I’m approving of the morph suit. Go fish.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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