Rules and Requirements

Freedom without rules doesn’t work. And communities do not work unless they are regulated by etiquette. – Judith Martin

For those of you who know me, you know I like rules. I like knowing what I can and can’t – or shouldn’t – do.

Now this doesn’t mean I follow all rules blindly. If the rule doesn’t make sense, I challenge it. Or I play the ‘letter of the law/spirit of the law’ game with it. You know, the one where you follow what you think the rulemaker meant when they put the words on paper rather than the actual words that appear on the paper because those words don’t say what the person who wrote them thinks they say. However, that could just be me…

Personally, I prefer a more general approach to rules. Something along the lines of ‘Don’t be a dumbass’, (which the library still won’t let me put up on a banner over the front door as they feel it may offend some people. Sigh…). It is succinct, clear, and extremely easy to remember. The next time you go to do something you aren’t sure is kosher, ask yourself, “Is this a dumbass thing to do?” If the answer is yes, don’t do it. See? It’s easy.

That said, there is one hard and fast rule we have at work lately. Wear a mask. Correctly. Our city has a mask mandate, so I have spent the better part of the last few months explaining to people in a chirpy voice that we need them to wear their masks correctly so the board of health Will. Keep. Us. Open. Which I think is pretty clear. If you want to come to the library and make it so other people can come to the library, wear the mask over your mouth and nose. I even put up cute pictures of an absolutely adorable dog showing the wrong ways (and finally the right way) to wear a mask. It’s totes adorbs.

This has reduced – yet somehow not eliminated – the number of people who walk in without their faces covered. These folks can be categorized in two groups, the ‘well, how was I supposed to know that?’ crowd – this after they have walked by three or more signs saying ‘masks required’ and somehow missed all of them – and the ‘muh freedoms’ crowd, who we just tell to leave. Nicely. Through gritted teeth. It’s a useful skill if you can manage it. I’m getting better. Slowly.

Since the mask mandate has gone back to covering all indoor spaces – businesses as well as municipal offices (yay for fewer arguments with people who don’t know the difference!) – there have been a lot more of these signs popping up all over town. Including ones at the local YMCA where I go on my lunch hour to lift weights or walk on a treadmill when it is yucky outside and my knee and ankle are in the mood to cooperate with me.

Which is where my frustrations started last week.

Now, the women I swim with in the mornings have all been great about mask wearing. We get out of the pool and the shower, dry off our shining faces, pop our masks back on, throw on our clothes, and get on with our days, having lovely chats while most of the first few items on this list are happening. It’s been great. Mostly it is the same four or five other people, so we are like our own swimming pod.

The weight room….? Well, up there, they are not always as considerate. Despite the signage telling people there is a mandate and that people need to wipe down the equipment they have used, some of the people have been, shall we say, less than cooperative about safety protocols. It’s a big area, so usually I can avoid working out within 5-6 yards of these folks, and if I have to get to a piece of equipment near them, I ask if they mind putting on their masks correctly as I work around small children. For the most part people have been cooperative, if not graciously so.

Except now the college students on break. And are swarming the weight room in clusters.

Of the five people – 4 men, 1 woman for those who are interested – I asked that of last Monday, only one actually pulled his mask up and kept it up. Or at least he did while we were in the same space. The other four? Within minutes if not seconds, masks were back down under noses, under chins, or on wrists. So effective, that.

I gave up and went down to the treadmills.

Now this upsets me for several reasons:

  1. As a paying member of the Y I would really like to use the facility, not just part of it.
  2. I have been eating much more than has been healthy for me over the holidays, and strength training is one of the mechanisms I use to get my weight back under control.
  3. Remember the comment from above about my knee and ankle cooperating? I have been in physical therapy for the IT band injury that made my knee swell up like a lemon over Columbus Day weekend, and now I seem to have developed some tendonitis, with possibly some small tears (whee….) on my ankle and foot, most likely from when I could barely walk because my knee hurt so much. So, the treadmill isn’t always an option for me right now.

Needless to say, I am finding this more than a little frustrating. I don’t want to have to give up my lunchtime workouts. Not only do I hope they will help me with the fluffier than usual stomach I have acquired, they seriously improve my mood. Since the inconsiderate people have taken over the weight room, I have been going back to work in a worse mood than when I left. Which is counterproductive on a whole number of levels.

One possible solution, which I am not thrilled with, will be to avoid the weight room until they have returned to class. (Please, G-d, keep in-person classes!) While I don’t really like Nautilus machines – I am short enough not to fit on many of them well – I have noticed that room is mostly deserted when I am there at lunch. So, that could be a choice. When my leg is cooperating, I can use the treadmill or do an easy jaunt on an elliptical trainer. Or some combination of the two. I will just have to see.

And wait for school to be back in session. (See previous plea.)

What I really want to know is why it is so hard for people to be considerate of others? Do I like wearing a mask all the time? No, although it is warmer when I walk the dog at night, and there is an occasional benefit to the person I am talking to not being able to see my whole face. Like the person this morning who wanted me to find them grants to apply for to do outdoor drum circles for front line health care workers. (Having the bottom half of my face covered was a definite plus there.) But I wear the mask at work, when I go shopping, and around small children. Because I care about my fellow human beings and doesn’t want to be responsible for someone else getting sick, and I’m pretty sure that, evidence to the contrary, showing common courtesy for our fellow human beings is not too much to ask.

I can only hope the new year proves me right.


One thought on “Rules and Requirements

  1. There is a great alternative to the “Don’t be a dumbass” sign. The high school I went to was in an old brownstone house/mansion in Boston’s Back Bay, almost all the floors were carpeted, and we had just one rule: No rollerskating in the halls.


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