The Mask by the Side of the Road

SONOMA IS A SMALL TOWN: small enough to be intimate, but also large enough to have its share of common human misbehaviors.

Take the occasional gutter-detritus. The first time I saw an empty bottle dumped near a Sonoma curb by an unseen hand, I was surprised (and a little delighted) to see that it once held a rare French wine rather than the malt liquor I had come to expect in more urban settings. Over the years I have witnessed a variety of dry-land jetsam: smoked-oyster tins; car keys; take-out containers from upscale restaurants; and once, a $20 bill. But in the past two weeks (at this writing, 8/4/20), I have been happening on objects more timely and topical — viz., abandoned COVID-19 masks.

Wiser and more eloquent minds than mine have discoursed on the need to keep our breathing-parts covered when in public places. As a fan of science, as well as of common courtesy, I whole-soulledly endorse these sentiments and can’t figure out what makes this so problematic for some people. But apparently, it is; and perhaps the fierce decision to reject what some call “obedience rags” comes on someone all sudden-like. Why else would someone toss such a perfectly good health-aid? These aren’t cheap disposable masks either, but the expensive-looking black (and sometimes white) washable variety.

I have so far numbered five or six of these fallen-or-dropped-by-the-wayside casualties. Perhaps they are thrown out of the windows of parked cars by passion-intent couples; yanked off and flung away during heated pedestrian arguments; disposed of by alcohol-fueled revelers frustrated by a priggish cloth barrier; or even rendered disgusting by dint of having been sneezed into. Whatever the case, I’m sure the disposers must have good reasons. For now, though, those reasons remain as enigmatic as the virus which necessitated them.

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