M: Teresa is asking how we should handle people who refuse to wear a face mask or who can’t properly put it on. Frankly, I do not care if I offend them by telling them to wear the mask! It’s not for them but also for me and the other people who do not want to be infected and get sick. But since we want to give options to avoid possible conflicts, here’s a pro-tip: Carry an extra mask. And if you meet somebody who is not wearing one, give it to that person and teach him how to wear it. If he refuses, I think it’s best to report that person to the police. In one city, there’s a P5,000 fine as a penalty for not wearing a face mask.
DJ: Per experience, people wear masks—improperly though. We’d think just looking at the number of positive cases in the Philippines now exceeding that of China would move everyone to suitably wear a mask in public spaces. However, that’s not always what I’d observe every time I’d go out to run errands or to work. I’d still see a number of people wearing their masks around their necks like it’s more of a good luck charm rather than to protect themselves from possible infection. Why? They probably don’t like the smell of their own breath. But seriously, the mask can feel unpleasant particularly when the weather is humid, or when you’re talking to someone over a long period of time. They make one’s glasses fog up, too. Still, it’s meant for an important purpose which is more than one’s convenience. One thing I know, though, shaming people for not properly wearing masks is counterproductive. It never gets people on our side.
M: I do not understand why some people refuse to follow health and safety protocols that will protect them and others. One lady in the United States said why force her to wear a mask to cover her nose and mouth when she doesn’t even wear underwear. I found her argument stupid, for lack of a kinder term. Obviously, she can cover her private parts with a skirt or pants, and whatever she is setting free or letting loose down there has no impact on others around her, unless there is some obnoxious odor.
DJ: Setting a good example remains to be the most effective way in creating such social norm. And if they’re people Teresa knows or has authority over, she can smile even if they don’t see her pearly white teeth and make a gesture signaling that their mask isn’t well positioned. It usually works when there’s a relationship to bank on. “I” statements are also more effective compared to “you.” Telling the other person “I’m not comfortable” sits better than saying “You are making me uncomfortable.” But what if they’re people she doesn’t know? I guess she’ll have to let them be. She’ll just have to step back and quietly distance herself from these people.
M: We all have to be responsible not just for ourselves but also for others around us especially in this time of pandemic. We cannot be selfish or unconcerned because our actions or inaction can impact others. Before, when you coughed, nobody bothered to turn around to check how you were. Try doing it now and you will see people giving you a wide berth and giving you the evil eye. Your “chismosa” neighbors might even call Department of Health or your barangay to report you. So if you see someone not wearing a mask or improperly wearing one, we should gently tell them to wear one or wear it properly. Who knows? They might be grateful that someone cared enough to remind them.
DJ: Wearing a mask is being considerate to those around us. Whether we believe about its importance or not, we don’t assume that other people share our views. Properly wearing a mask means we care. Period. Whether it’s our health, the other person’s or both. I believe that’s one of the lessons we’re learning from the pandemic: to think more about other people’s welfare and not just our own. However, I also think we really can’t tell people what they can and cannot do if we don’t have authority over the space we’re in. The best course of action? Control one’s own well-being and create the rules for spaces we have influence over as best we can.