A Pandemic Primer

What I learned from ‘the mask argument’

Debra Emerson


Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay

The mango lady taught me the most important lesson of the pandemic.

No, it wasn’t about the best masks to wear or the ideal hand sanitizer with the correct percentage of alcohol or how to Zoom with breakout rooms. It was something even more significant, something we all know but sometimes forget.

Entrance: The Supermarket

It was summertime and the supermarket scene was down pat: mask, wipes for the handle of the cart, alcohol spray for my hands, reusable and newly washed grocery bags, a safe distance from others. You get the drill.

I was on a quest for a mango. It had been a year since I had one and when I came across a recipe requiring a mango, I just had a yen to try it.

Meet the Mango Lady

I head to the fruit section of the produce aisle and spy the mangos. A large woman with three young children is standing there. I stay back at a safe distance watching her pick up mangos, squeeze them, pass them to what appeared to be her mother-in-law to test out, take them back, and repeat.

I was thinking it’s a good thing I can easily wash my mango when I eventually get one, and the skin does not get eaten so that is also good. Then I spy the littlest of the children, maybe about five years old, with her mask slipped down. It was too big for her face.

I was waiting for the child to be noticed, but the women were intent on the mangos and the other children were looking away. Without thinking and with my taking-care-of-children conditioning, I simply indicated, “Honey, your mask slipped down.”

Well, the large lady wheeled around and cursed me up and down.

“How dare you talk to children?” And bleep, bleep, and lots more bleeps.

“I only let her know her mask slipped down. I was trying to be helpful, for her own good,” I tell the woman.


“I apologize,” I say softly while thinking that someone with asthma or any breathing issue actually should need to wear a mask.




Debra Emerson

Educator and writer who loves nature, people, life, and making the world a better place. You can visit her at www.debraemerson.com.