If Someone Asked You To Wear a Mask…Would You?

By Dr. Kevin Pallis


I was flying down to Atlanta to speak at Life Vision, and I was seated on the outside seat next to the aisle with two ladies in their 30’s next to me. Ever since Northwest Airlines merged with Delta Airlines, my Gold status has been downgraded from practically flying first class to a mere free bag of peanuts, small seats and packed flights. Oh, do I miss the service of a much smaller airline. As I readied myself to get in line to board, I quickly said a small prayer and looked at the upgrade list for first class and saw I was 34 people away from getting there.


Finally, I got on the plane with my SKY PRIORITY ticket, which helps you always with luggage, especially if you’re traveling with a rock-n-roll guitar. They let you board just after first class. I’m comfortable in my seat and start imagining who your flying companions are going to be for the next 3 hours. I saw some burly guys looking at the seats next to me, and to my relief, they were in the seat behind me. Next, I saw a little old lady with luggage she couldn’t lift. As I was getting ready to help her, when I realized that she kept moving towards the back of the plane. Before I could even look, I heard a screaming-crying baby and was relieved when they passed. Then it happened: two ladies in their 30’s with surgical-type masks on their faces. “Nah,” I thought to myself, “they won’t sit here.” Then they pointed to the seats, as the masks over their mouths were preventing them from speaking clearly, and I got up to let them by.


After the front cabin door was closed, they started to ask people in the next row if they would mind wearing masks so they don’t catch Ebola. I just love the human interaction that goes on in an airplane cabin. I began to wonder: would they do it? Would there be an argument? To my surprise, all three in front of them and all three in back of me dutifully agreed to put on the masks. This was fine, and almost humorous to me as I watched the others in compliance to my fellow seat companion’s requests, but now the cannon was pointed squarely at me. Suddenly it wasn’t so funny.

Masks Plane Blog Pic

The woman in the middle seat didn’t ask, but shoved a mask toward me and motioned for me to put it over my mouth and nose. Now remember, she had the street cred of getting 6 other people to agree to her request, and it was my turn. There was no way I was going don silly mask, but I still thought I was being looked upon as some sort of criminal for not  following the crowd. Everyone around me was staring at me and applying this mob-like, social pressure on me; you could literally cut the tension with a knife. After a few seconds of silence, she spoke through her mask and asked me to wear the mask so my germs would be contained, to which I politely declined.


She started telling me she has a lowered immunity, a rare, genetic illness and she needs me to wear the mask. I politely declined and she asked me why. A young woman across the aisle from me started to record a video of the situation on her. Needless to say, I wasn’t about to get into any sort of discussion with the woman with the mask about the diameter of the filter system she was wearing. I knew that that mask was more designed to filter or trap paint particles than a microscopic virus. The drama was beginning to build. The woman now got the flight attendant’s attention (she pushed the button) and in a muffled, loud voice demanded to have me reseated so she wouldn’t be exposed to my germs. The flight attendant was perplexed and didn’t really know what to do. I shook my head no and the tension increased. Another person starting filming the confrontation on her smart phone. I closed my eyes and turned on my iPhone to play a playlist that my kids had programmed with all my favorite songs. I thought the episode had ended.


I was lost in rockabilly lyrics of a crooning Brian Setzer singing, “I won’t stand in your way…” when somebody tapped my shoulder. It was a burly man with a blanket of outrage draped on his face, and he motioned for me to take my earplugs out. He was somehow connected to the two ladies and was asking me to put on the mask. He was a bit too close, way inside my personal bubble, if you will, and was intent on intimidating me.


In a not-so-polite manner, he asked me if I minded explaining to him why I wouldn’t comply. At this point it was clear that it wouldn’t have mattered if I was to give out any explanations at this point. I said to him the same answer as I had given the women, “NO.” The man just stood in the aisle staring at me.


Then I couldn’t help myself, I felt a series of sneezes coming on. Maybe some coughing too. I had had enough of this Hypochondriasis and it was time to take the offensive. It was a couple of coughs and a fake sneeze or two in when the two women with masks started yelling at me that they wanted to get up from their seats. As I got up, they were swearing under their breath, demanding that they be reseated. A guy from behind me poked me and gave me a thumbs up for standing my ground. As the flight attendants passed by asking for trash, the guy handed in his mask. Then, one by one, all of those who complied with those women handed in their masks. Luckily, we never saw the two women again, but as we were gathering up our luggage, all of the people around me were saying, “Way to go not being bullied by the ‘germ police’.”


We’ve all had people like this in our lives, but it’s truly up to us if we will comply, or stand by.

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