My Return to Masks

BREAKING NEWS:  A recent study finds that masks prevented as many as 450,000 cases of COVID-19 in the United States in states that enacted the requirement between April 8 and May 15.                                           – Journal of Health Affairs, June 25, 2020.


Dear Ms. “What’s your name?”

Okay, you don’t know me and I don’t know you. And maybe that’s a good thing because you may not like what I’m about to say to you Ms. “What’s your name?”

You see, I pulled up in my SUV the other week, parked, put on my mask and was about to head into the grocery store when I saw you and your three young kids – two in car seats if I remember correctly – in the parking space next to me. And by the way, your kids – all less than five years old I’d guess – are absolutely beautiful. You must be one proud momma. 

Now there was nothing out of the ordinary for me until I saw you roll down your window and pluck out a still smoldering cigarette you’d been puffing on. Hey, I thought (and wanted to shout) “hey lady, haven’t you heard about the dangers of second-hand smoke on children?” as I walked towards the store.

About ten minutes later while inside the store I saw you and your crew – as cute as ever -again from a distance. But to my dismay, you nor they had on masks that, as the experts tells us almost daily, can minimize the spread of COVID-19. 

Now I want you to know Ms. “What’s your name?” that although your smoking with the windows up with kids in your car sickened me, the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” for me was the sight of your kids excitedly running about the store without masks and not practicing recommended social distancing they were too young to understand.

So, Ms. “What’s your name,” I don’t know if you can be moved by common sense or data, but the death toll now stands at over 120,000. And the United States, with roughly 4 percent of the world’s population, accounts for about 25 percent of its COVID-19 deaths. Plus, things are predicted to get much, much worse over the coming months.

Once my shopping was over, I thought about your behavior on the way back to my SUV Ms. “What’s your name?” A tugging part of me wanted to wait for you in the lot and call you out on your selfish behavior. However, you may have told me to mind my own business (accompanied with a “middle finger salute”) that the choice to mask or not is your unalienable right, which would been within your right. I get that.

Or you may have phoned someone 50 pounds heavier, stronger and 20 years younger than yours truly to “settle” my meddling with a one punch “knuckle sandwich.” That too would have been your right. I get that too.

Or you could have called the police on me, still another threatening Black man in America, for “mask harassment,” and that too would have been your right. Yes, I get that as well. So, considering those three unattractive options, I bit my tongue and decided to just keep my mouth shut. 

So Ms. “What’s your name?” back at the mask wearing, the pandemic. Allow me one more try to get through to you (and other mask wearing deniers).

I remind you that people are dying. So now would be an excellent time for you to put on the mask. And stand 6 feet apart. And listen to the experts. And decide which inconvenience you’d rather put up with; wearing a protective mask or being hooked up to a ventilator quarantined away from those three beautiful kids, or worse? And if you don’t care enough about yourself, at least care about those three beautiful kids. 

So I’m asking, no, begging you Ms. (and Mr.)  “What’s your name?” ….put on that damn mask!

© Terry Howard is an award-winning writer and storyteller. He is also a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, The American Diversity Report, The Douglas County Sentinel, The Atlanta Business Journal, The Echo World, co-founder of the “26 Tiny Paint Brushes” writers’ guild, and recipient of the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King Leadership Award. He can be reached at


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