Andy Rooney On Masks

I wonder what Andy Rooney would have made of COVID-19 and the mask situation. I can imagine him at the end of 60 Minutes, sitting at his desk, holding a typical mask that people wear these days. I imagine him complaining about how uncomfortable the loops for the masks are around his ears. “People will call me ‘Ear-ny’ Rooney,” I imagine him saying. But who cares about how you look, he would say. Early in the day the masks aren’t too bad, but as the day wears on, the cloth of the mask gets caught on stubble and can be annoying and painful.

Why, Andy would wonder, do the masks come with those tags that pop out from between the two layers and tickle your cheek? Does anyone really look at those tags? What are they for? Andy would pull out the tag for all of us to see. The camera would pan in on the microscopic writing. “Made in China,” Andy would read. There are a lot of conspiracy theorists out there, Rooney would say, and I’ll bet some of them think COVID is marketing ploy by China to sell a lot of masks.

He would note that most people have to buy masks. They are not something that the government provides. Businesses, he would point out, are cashing in. He’d pick up a baby Yoda mask and frown at it.

Andy would turn his wrinkled, jowly face to the camera and say, “I’m old enough to where I can barely hear someone speak as it is. When sometime talks to me wearing one of these masks, they sound like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoon, “Wah-wah, wuh, wah-wah.” It’s difficult to read the morning papers with my mask on because it is constantly fogging up my reading glasses, Andy would tell us.

I day-dreamed this imagined 60 Minutes segment as I drove the family on an unexpected trip down to Florida. In Virginia, where I live, everyone wears masks, they are required indoors, and people seem generally okay with it. I noticed more or less the same in North Carolina, and in the hotel we stayed at outside Savannah, Georgia. Florida has been a different matter. It’s been like stepping back in time a year or. so, when masks were for Halloween, and a global pandemic was the furthest thing from our minds. The people I’ve seen in the stores I’ve gone into aren’t wearing masks. The cashiers that work behind the counter aren’t wearing masks. In fact, you can more or less tell who is out of state and who is local by who is, and who is not, wearing a mask.

I’m not sure what the fuss on masks is all about. I wear a seatbelt even if I find them uncomfortable. I wear “nice clothes” on the holiday, even though I prefer shorts and a t-shirt. I thought it might be hard to breath with a mask on, but I breath fine. I imagine there are some who have difficulties with that. I’ve heard that there are people who believe that masks just don’t work in preventing the spread of the virus. That reminds me of a story about Neils Bohr.

Bohr was a renowned Danish physicist who studied the underlying quantum structure of the universe. He was a scientist, and rationalist, and by all accounts, brilliant. A visitor coming to his office one day found on his wall a horseshoe with the opening tilted up toward the ceiling to catch luck. “Surely, Dr. Bohr,” the visitor said, “you don’t actually believe that horseshoe will bring you luck?”

Bohr shook his head, “No, I don’t believe it,” he said, “But I am told it will bring me luck whether I believe it or not.

My imagined 60 Minutes segment ends with Andy Rooney telling us, “I’ve got a bunch of errands to do this weekend. I have to go to the hardware store to pick up some new washers. I’ve got stuff in the trunk of the car that I need to take to the dump. I need batteries for the flashlight.” At this point, Andy slips on his mask. “I’ll be doing all of these errands, wearing this ridiculous mask, despite its discomforts. I’ll wear because it will help protect you and me from COVID, whether we believe it or not.

About Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie Todd Rubin writes fiction and nonfiction for a variety of publications including Analog, Clarkesworld, The Daily Beast, 99U, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and several anthologies. He was featured in Lifehacker’s How I Work series. He has been blogging since 2005. By day, he manages software projects and occasionally writes code. He lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and three children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.

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