Slightly Criminal Behavior

Slightly Criminal Behavior

Ella McFarland

Even writing this feels weird because I feel like I am giving evidence for a potential crime scene or turning myself in even though I haven't committed a crime. I haven't stolen anything or murdered anyone. All I did was, wait for it, not wear a mask at an airport.

I didn't go into my day thinking I would break the rules. I walked into the airport building like any other building in the covid era with my mask on. But the minute I walked in, I saw a woman not wearing a mask. I begin to think, hmm, that's odd, but maybe she's just taking it off because she headed outside.

Later on, when I got to the security line, I noticed the lady again, and she wasn't wearing her mask still. I was so inspired at that moment I tore off my mask without thinking and continued through security. I thought, weird, okay, no one has said anything interesting. When this maskless lady and I went to grab our shoes and backpacks in the security line, she spoke to me to tell me I could go ahead of her to grab my stuff.

It was such a human moment.

Two strangers looking each other in the eyes seeing each other's full faces, and having a normal exchange. Nothing special, but at that moment, it felt so special. Looking back at it, I can't remember the last time I saw a stranger's full face. Yeah, I have seen my friend's face in the privacy of my own home, but it's not the same as going outside and interacting with new faces all the time.

There is something so robotic about this whole mask thing. I can't imagine if I was a little kid right now trying to make new classmates or learn social cues and boundaries without seeing facial expressions. Or if I was single trying to meet a potential cute boy to go on a date with. When agreeing to wear masks, we have to look at the tradeoffs. We can't deny the human experience we are willing to miss out on. For example, this weekend in Tahoe, I did a ski lesson and became good friends with my ski instructor, but the entire day we wore masks and never saw each other's faces. Which is really nuts if you think about it. I learned about his childhood in London, his college experience in Amsterdam, his wife and family, his pets. But I never saw this face? How strange? I began to realize. Wow. If I ever were to run into him again, I probably wouldn't recognize him since I never knew what he looked like, to begin with.

I feel like with covid in its entirety, we are being conditioned not critically to think through tradeoffs. What are the pros of masks? What are the cons? What about lockdowns? Do they really work or just lead to more death in different forms. I know it sounds like a broken record, and many of my entries have been about covid. But I can not stress enough how deadly practicing tunnel vision is. It has serious consequences and leaves our blind spots open.

I think the way news channels put up the covid death ticker is straight-up wrong and dehumanizing. We have never done anything else like this in our lives. 38,000 Americans die from car crashes a year. Do we have a death ticker for that, no? No, of course, if we did, no one would ever get in a car.

I just went skiing this weekend for the first time, talk about a dangerous activity. And everywhere I went, there was a reminder to stay masked up and "stay safe". And the irony is I'm at a massive international ski resort with anyone ranging from little kids learning how to ski to pros trying the most dangerous moves. And on average, 600,000 Americans are injured from skiing every year. Skiing is a somewhat dangerous sport with a decent amount of risk involved, yet people make informed decisions and take calculated risks to still engage in the activity.

That is how we survive in this world we look at the facts, evaluate the risk, and make a thoughtful decision. And because we all different, the final risk decision is going to vary from person to person.  We have done this for thousands of years, and sadly, it doesn't always work out, and risk-taking can lead to injury or even death. That's the double-edged sword about living. It does lead to inevitable death. And sadly, the timing is different for everyone, and that's the most unfair thing in the world. But with covid, we don't practice this individual evaluating of risk. Instead, we have developed this same strategy for every human, from a baby to a 100-year-old. And even as new information has come out, even with a vaccine, we have the same lockdowns and same masks rules. This one size fits all strategy has washed us of a logical individual decision-making process. And that is not healthy.

I want to end this by saying this. I don't know if I will break the mask mandate at the airport again or not. What I do know is it was the most freeing human experience I have had in a long time. Overall, my feeling is I am not some anti masker, and if something can be proven to be more helpful than harmful, I am willing to do it. I want to help those around me, and I want to practice good citizenship to my fellow neighbors. However, what I have finally realized is, unfortunately, masks aren't all good. And they have and will have to continue to have some negative effects on people. And I want to live in a country and be surrounded by people who are willing to raise questions, look at the facts and challenge each other so everyone can get hopefully closer to the truth.


Almost four months, later I am still wearing my mask when it is required here in California. I still hold true to what I wrote back in January. I think we need to always run a risk-reward analysis with everything we do on an individual level. And no decision, one way or another, is going to be perfect.

I want to leave you with this. Something as simple as smiling or receiving smiles from others can lead to a decrease in the stress-induced hormones, which in return better your physical and mental health. And on average, people who smile 40-50 times a day are the happiest people. Staying locked away in our houses and not getting our smiles out into the world not only makes us less happy but also those around us.

So, after the crazy covid year we have had, I am looking forward to the time when we can all see each other's faces and brighten a stranger's day with our smile. :)