I had to follow up on my last post, in which I totally laughed off the idea of a mask fitting — fiddle dee dee, how hard can it be? — because as some of you knew, a mask fitting test is a WHOLE ENTIRE THING.

In fact, the name alone was a strong clue that I completely ignored: mask fitting test. I thought I was BEING fitted, in the sense that someone would be figuring out what sort of mask size I needed, and maybe there would be a little surprise to that, like getting a bra fitting and finding out you’ve been cramming your hooters into the wrong cup size for the last decade, but otherwise the experience would be passive and there would be no expectations of me while the experts do whatever it is they need to do.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, with a side of wrong and save more wrong for dessert. The test administrator did start by telling me what mask I needed to be using but from there on out the (seemingly endless) appointment was entirely focused on my ability to correctly 1) put on the mask, and 2) perform various tasks without breaking the mask’s seal.

In the year of our lord 2022, who in the hell struggles to put on a mask, right? All I can say in defense of my humiliating performance is that this particular mask (an N95 ‘Aura’ from 3M) was more complicated than any I had used before. It had two straps that needed to go over the back of the head, but one of the straps had to be under my hair, and I hadn’t brought a ponytail holder.

I can’t explain why this flatlined me so thoroughly but it did. An unknown amount of time passed — I’m still blocking it out — while I engaged in a silent and increasingly sweaty fight with two bands of elastic and one human head, and I’m sure I would still be there to this day if the nurse hadn’t eventually magicked a disposable latex glove into a hairband for me.

“I mean, I’ve seen worse,” she told me, not unkindly. “One fellow got himself so worked up we had a take a little time out.” I laughed breezily in order to indicate that I myself was fine and most certainly not on the brink of diving headfirst through the nearest office window, ha ha ha.

Anyway, once I had it on I had to read a long passage of text and do a bunch of weird bending around, all while connected via what looked like an oxygen tube to a machine that was checking the seal. (Apparently they don’t do the scent thing anymore, if anyone’s experienced that.)

I managed to pass the test (although obviously I FAILED IN MY HEART), and at the end the nurse asked me how the mask felt. “Rough,” I said honestly/nasally, because no shit, this thing is suffocatingly tight, extremely not comfortable, I couldn’t wait to get it off.

“Yeah,” she said, looking at me. “It’s been rough.”

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Things are getting weird again with Omicron but there’s little consistency from state to state or person to person so everything feels even more nebulous and worrying than back when we mainly shared the same dismay.

Here in Oregon we’ve been under a state indoor mask mandate pretty much all along. There was a brief hopeful period last summer but the requirement came back in August. I know smaller towns can be pretty lax about it but in Eugene (where I live) it seems either fairly well enforced and/or people are willing to adhere to the rules.

On the one hand, I cannot believe we’re still dealing with all of this and I strongly empathize with the negative effects the mandate has on businesses (especially gyms) and I’m so disappointed that getting vaccinated (and now boosted!) isn’t enough and blah blah blah. On the other hand, I’m glad that the majority of the masking issue here is limited to the ass-painery of enforcement, as opposed to people getting upset with each other in stores and so on.

This mandate obviously extends to the schools, so that is our situation there as well: everyone is masked, whether they like it or not.

In other requirements and relaxations, nothing makes a whole lot of sense. I have to go to the hospital tomorrow and get fitted for an N95 mask in order to keep volunteering with hospice. (I have no idea what that means, to get fitted: I am sort of assuming they will eyeball me and hand me a small, medium, or large mask?) All volunteers were put on hold right before the holiday break, and I don’t fully understand their criteria for moving forward but I believe it’s by assumed risk. I qualify for “phase 1,” which means instead of being kept on hold I can re-assume my visiting duties once I get the hospital-provided masks.

Meanwhile, I learned on one of my home visits maybe a month ago that my patient had just gotten vaccinated. She’s so fragile, maybe there was a reason she couldn’t endure it before, I don’t know. (But YIKES, not on her danger to me but vice versa.)

All school volunteering has been on hold since the start of COVID, but our middle school appears to be re-starting it as of right now. I can’t tell you how much I missed helping out in the school and being around the kids and how eagerly I have looked forward to being able to do so again — but also it kind of feels like, are we SURE right NOW is the best time??

Of course not, right? No one is sure about a single goddamned thing, especially not me.

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