Facemask Blues

For months now Lesvos has been under the spell of facemasks. Like mushrooms in autumn, they popped up during the first lockdown. After the lockdown they became mandatory in public spaces and later, when the second corona wave came rolling in, also on the streets.

I have no problem wearing a facemask. When you become used to wearing one, it is just a little effort to contribute to the fight against this worldwide catastrophe. During the first lockdown I ordered a range of colourful facemasks from a local seamstress: bright colors, mosaic and star-like patterns. In the media I see even more beautiful, funny and strong statement masks, all of which make me terribly envious.

It looks like the facemask craze has not really started here. Like I also have a problem: there have only been a few occasions when I could show off my ‘sausage’ and ‘cake’ mask, or when I could pair my bad mood with the ‘cacti-themed’ one, or when I could have ‘flamingos’ dancing over my lips when life was good. I just do not venture out enough to crowded areas and shops. I just shoot from a facemask-free car into a shop wearing a mask with ‘coloured balloons’, or wear the ‘knife & fork’ mask to go to a restaurant. When I walk the dogs along a totally deserted Eftalou boulevard, I just don’t know for whom I should wear a mask: maybe for the runner who passes so quickly that there is barely time to carefully grab the elastic with your fingers in order to cover your mouth with a ‘cloud-imprinted’ mask.

When you gaze over a long, sunny beach, where only at the far end a flock of seagulls loudly debate, there is no human soul to protect with a mask — well yes, maybe your friends who have accompanied you to spend another great day in nature. It is odd that you do not protect them, nor do they protect you while leaving their lips bare. It’s the same story for when we go walking along humid riverbeds, where nature has tried to transform them into sensational green tunnels, and where the heavy sweet scent of autumn penetrates your nose.

Lesvos is no longer a corona-free island, but the main parts of the island are so sparingly populated that it is certainly a mask averse island. The Lesvorians think the same: the further away from Mytilini, the less mouth masks are worn. I think that is a bit disrespectful. If you want your customers to return to your shop, you’d better adhere to the rules: wear a mask, even though it appears that the virus only dwells in the streets of the capital. That is why I now prefer to shop in mask-aware shops. It’s mostly the small local shopkeepers who do not believe in a piece of fabric over your mouth and nose. They used to be my favorite shops so I do sometimes still go into their shop where I feel like an alien with my fancy ‘tartan’ mask — frightening the mask-free clients and staff: oops, I forgot, there is corona! Then they hastily move aside at least one meter, as if I was a leper. I assume my ‘red painted lips’ mask would probably offer the same protection in that situation.

Greek weddings and baptisms can impossibly be celebrated with mouth caps. Maybe because the party shops have not yet taken the business opportunity to sell packages full of party masks, depicting ‘exploding fireworks’, ‘champagne flutes’ and nicely ‘decorated presents’. Half the village visiting such a merry event, dressed in their Sunday clothes, on dangerously high heels, probably have not managed to find a matching fabric for their masks. When you pass them with a ‘twinkling stars’ mask, you risk spoiling their party, because there is no place for corona in such celebrations.

Also in small taverns there seems to be no such thing as corona, even though a huge wall-mounted tv screen spews plenty of doomsday scenarios, warning what will happen if you do not follow the rules. Then they place another ouzo on the table, next to it a plate with fish, thinking that everything that is on television happens only faraway and I along with my friends (one more than legally allowed at the table) think the same.

A mouth mask prevents you from spreading the virus to another person. But even when wearing masks we are all playing Russian Roulette. It seems that Lesvos has a thousand more blanks amid the bullets than big cities and other crowded areas. I cannot think of a better place to sit-out the corona crisis, even that I am missing the mask parade.