Gone With The Wind - Rusty Evans
“Dad, you should be wearing them when you’re out.”
“I think there’s a werewolf mask in the Halloween bin.” I thought it was funny, until I said it. I’d been mostly humorless on the couch for eleven-and-a-half days since everybody got sent home. “Okay, seriously, I think I saw some in one of Gram’s boxes out there.” They’d been in the garage over ten years. Did medical masks have expiration dates?
“You mean those green paper ones we played with when we were kids? They had mold on them. We threw them out.”
Shoot, I’ve have taken mold over this Covid stuff.
She said, “besides, the garage isn’t very sterile.”
“My garage?” She’s right. Not sterile.
“Have you checked in the first aid cabinet?” she asked.
The first-aid cabinet was a shelf in the linen closet. I carried the phone with me to look. “Well, son-of-a-gun. I found one.”
“It’s blue, right? It’s disposable. You’re only supposed to use them once.”
“Well, that seems like a waste. Can you recycle them?”
“Dad. I’m making you and Mom some homemade cloth masks. Just waiting on elastic that’s back ordered. I should get them to you within a couple of days.”
“That’s sweet, Savannah. What will they look like?”
“They’ll look like homemade masks.”
She could be a smart ass like her dad. I asked, “Do you have time? You’re working straight through this…”
“I’m working from home mostly, so no San Diego commute. And I’m making them for us anyway. Don’t you want them?”
“Of course, I want them” (I want them, don’t I?) “I mean, we’ll be able to recycle them, right?” I knew it was wrong, the moment I said it.
“You’ll be able to reuse them. And wash them. Everybody’s out of those throwaway ones anyway.”
This pandemic was just starting, and we were already out of masks? I’d have to get to the bottom of that.
She continued, “I mean, everybody will be using them and it’s not that you’re unhealthy, but you may be, uhm, more susceptible to germs and viruses now that you’re, you know, older.”
“Older?” Savannah was 26 and I was 64. “Ancient. Just say it. You won’t hurt my feelings.”
I could hear her smile.
“Send me a pic with the masks on you and Mom when you get them. Love you! Oh wait, are we still on…”
“To watch Get Smart at three. It’s what got me out of bed this morning!”
My lone mask meant if I needed bread or toilet paper, or IPA’s I could get past inquiring minds. Old throwaway blue wasn’t in plastic packaging, which made me think it had already been used. I certainly didn’t want to be arrested committing mask-usage double-dipping. Was there any way to tell?
I decided to do something of questionable value and search through mostly useless information on the worldwide web. There is something about lounging on your couch for 275 hours and 14 minutes straight that made me fascinated to explore things my brain had intentionally forgotten or that I was never really interested in to begin with.
This went on for 93 minutes, before my computer buzzed with a Facetime request. It was Savannah.
“You ready to do this, Daddio?”
“So, we’re watching on our screens while we Facetime on our device.” I was showing off my grasp of modern tech lingo. “Do you remember the episode when a Control scientist gives 86 a hat and the brim would pull down making it a gas mask?”
“You remember that?”
“Of course! Well, I kind of remembered it, so I looked it up. I was doing a deep dive into the history of masks.”
“Sounds like you went to Wikipedia.”
“No, no, no! Okay, maybe to start. I did go all the way to page six of a Google search though.”
“Dad, anything past page five is the dark web.”
I thought, that can’t be right. I tested her with “I ordered a flame thrower!”
She countered with “Yep. I can’t get a fuel cartridge for mine.” I heard fumbling. “Hold on, I’ve got to get my charger. When I’m back, tell me what you learned from those dubious sources.”
Smart girl. I was as wise as her once. Okay, maybe never.
What I discovered on the internet was America had a stockpile of medical masks but ran out after the Swine Flu outbreak in 2009. Congress did appropriate money the next year for office furniture, but not funds for replenishing masks. The Strategic National Stockpile stored up radiation pills instead, called Prussian Blues, enough to last us 100 years, or three nuclear attacks, whichever came first.
What I didn’t want to talk about was how some websites claimed the mask shortage was brought about by a lack of foresight or runaway greed or both. I make it a point to talk to my kids about subjects that are constructive and positive. Especially during these trying times.
I blurted “Hunter Biden and Donald, Jr. are in cahoots hoarding masks to drive up prices.” Now that I said it, it didn’t sound constructive, positive or remotely believable.
I could hear Savannah plugging her phone in. “It sounds like were scrolling through the…’
“…dark web again?” I was right on it.
“More like Cartoon Channel.”
Hah. “What is true, it seems, is most of our masks come from overseas, like China. And guess what? They need them now.”
I heard a faint knock coming though the phone, followed by dogs barking.
“I think I have a delivery. Hold on.” There were muffled noises in the background.
I was about to tell her about a CNN interview I found from a couple of days earlier, with the director of infectious diseases, a man named Anthony Fauci. He said out of respect for others he thought wearing a mask in public was a good idea. And yet the Surgeon General tweeted that the public should stop buying masks because they were ineffective. Who to believe?
Savannah came back to the phone. “It’s the elastic! Earlier than expected! Dad, you okay with me knocking these masks out this afternoon and getting them to you guys? It’d mean no Get Smart today.”
Dang, “Not a problem. Max will be fine without us today. Besides, I got stuff to do.” Now what do I do? I opened my laptop and found out that disposal masks were not only unrecyclable but not biodegradable. They wouldn’t break down in a landfill over time. If you tried to recycle them, the polypropylene that they were made of would contaminate the recycling facility. It was all too depressing, so I decided a nap would be a better use my time. I dreamt of blue soldiers wearing gas masks marching through a mountain of trash.
Savannah was on the phone with me. “So, tell again me how it happened.”
I had a clever way to explain it, but I couldn’t pull it out of my brain in time. So, I answered, “I waited until your mask came to go to the store. I’m getting the essentials, you know, beer, and well, other stuff. Bananas and milk, for sure. Ibuprofen.” I remembered something, “I think I bought Prevagen…” I paused.
“Wait, Dad, you don’t recall buying Prevagen?”
When I thought up the line about the Prevagen earlier I laughed out loud. If losing your sense of what’s funny is a symptom of COVID-19, I better get tested.
She asked, “That’s a joke, right? You made that up?”
Not a good one, apparently. “Wow. My humor is so predictable. I need a comedy make-over.”
“Yeah, we all do. In the picture you sent, of you and mom wearing the masks, the one you were holding looked like it had tire tracks on it?”
“I was almost to the van with the shopping cart about half full. I had my mask on and my keys in my one hand and when I went to pull it off my face, it happened.”
“A gust blew it out of your fingers onto the parking lot…”
“…right in front of a raised Ford truck going by. One second, I have it and the next its….”
“…Gone with the wind, you said. But then you retrieved it. Did you throw it away yet?”
“No, I know it’s not recyclable but at least cloth masks decompose in the landfill.” My research was paying off!
“That’s right. Good job, Dad. What’s protocol now? Do you just toss it in the trash?”
I knew this answer. “Seal it in a Ziplock first.”
“Hmmm. I don’t think plastic bags are biodegradable,” she said.
Heck, no second nap today. Back to the dark web I go.
Rusty Evans is a California native, living in paradise on the Central Coast. He earned his history degree from Fresno State which might be one reason he has had to make a living selling cars. Rusty has published short stories, essays and songs. He now specializes in writings focused on life as a senior.