EDITORIAL: Maskless is clueless

WE HAVE A BIRD’S EYE VIEW of what has to be the hottest dine-out scene in all of Columbia County. I’m talking about the Moondog’s food truck parked across the driveway next to our office in Ghent.

The items on its chalkboard menus include a variety of sliders, french fries alleged by the owner to be the best in the region—a boast you won’t want to challenge once you taste them—“Ghent cheese steak,” multi-fruit lemonades and now soft ice cream, all at a price you can afford, literally. The sign on the window counter says it all: “PAY WHAT YOU CAN. IF YOU CANNOT, WE UNDERSTAND AND ARE HERE FOR THE COMMUNITY.”

The Moondog’s staff couldn’t be better neighbors. As you’d expect the operation is all take-out; there’s no place to eat-in except for a couple of socially distant picnic tables on the lawn where the truck is parked. So far, what has played out in front of our window has the feel of a time-lapse recording of the food truck’s popularity. It started in the chilly April rain, when an occasional car would cruise down the driveway as the occupants warily checked out the menu. Choosing a new place to eat isn’t simple in the age of the virus.

Now the sun is out and the state has begun a cautious reopening. Good luck finding a parking space near the Moondog’s landing zone. The customer base is diverse. You’ve got your working men and women in their pickups, some of which are rusting around the wheel wells , some not, and your BMW drivers with perfectly fitting sunglasses that match the tint of their windshield, families and work crews and no stereotypes—white and black and brown people, most of them observing social distancing and wearing a mask or whatever you’d call the fabric that covers mouth and nose.

But not everyone. The ones I remember are large, white men. It’s not a scientific survey, just an observation. It’s the people who stand out because they walk too close to the window of the truck, ignoring the social distancing stop line. One chats with truck staff member who’s wearing a mask.

I can’t know what they think about what they’re doing or if they think about it at all. It’s like they’re the only naked person in the room. They’re not being intimate, they’re just creepy. And potentially dangerous.

They don’t care what I think about them. I’m cranky and old. I don’t care about them either. I’ll admit that they are as close to invincible as anyone gets and possibly tough enough beat Covid-19 if it isn’t a hoax. I’d just like to talk to the maskless men (I haven’t seen many maskless women) about Moondog’s food truck. I’d like to ask them if they’re trying to put our friends in the truck out of business.

In my imagination the big man says that, yeah, he’s heard that the primary value of the mask is how it can protect others from contracting the virus from us before we know we’re infected. But he’s hungry and the smell of the food cooking in the truck has his attention. The young woman in the truck sets down his order and adjusts her mask to cover more of her face. She says something pleasant and moves away from the window.

He’s sure he will not get sick. I wanted to ask if he knows anyone in Florida, Texas, Arizona, California or any of the 22 states now experiencing outbreaks of Covid-19. But what’s the point? It’s not a reasoned response to refuse to protect others when the cost, measured in such reasonable terms as a wearing a mask, is so low. You only need to wear a mask when you can’t (or won’t) practice social distancing.

I like Moondog’s business model. Depending on the generosity of the public actually works sometimes. We have recent experience with that principle as well. Maybe the maskless man overpaid as his contribution. I wouldn’t rule it out. But that doesn’t excuse the antisocial behavior of people who feel entitled to ignore their responsibility as citizens to protect others. The maskless think it’s all about themselves.

I don’t have the patience to debate the maskless food truck patrons about their civic duties. But we have a few extra unused masks at the office and it will be hard to resist tapping on the window and offering one to next maskless person I see.

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