Alan Riquelmy: Supposed to be fun

A group of us thought it’d be fun to wear masks and walk around in public.

Everyone did it when they got sick. It was normal, and no one paid it any mind.

But, we thought, what if a bunch of foreigners living in Japan did it, like us?

So, we donned the disposable masks and traipsed around the arcade like it was nothing. And it was. No one cared. Not a second look. What a build up with no return. Might as well grab a beer and watch the game.

Of course, this was 20 years ago, long before COVID-19 thought about raising its head. Wearing a mask was something for the sick, not an indicator of your political persuasion. Now we know who someone voted for based on if their face is covered in the grocery store.

There are a few exceptions. Wealthy and influential people aren’t required to wear masks indoors, regardless of political affiliation. The hoi polloi, however, are neatly divided into separate camps by masks and vaccination cards.

I’ve been trying to pinpoint when this divide started. In March 2020, it was all still too new, too raw. In April 2020, everyone stayed indoors, mostly. It’s the only month I made it from Combie Road to Interstate 80 without hitting a light.

Then May 2020 hit, and people seemed tired of being cooped up. If only they could have looked 18 months in the future.

Thanks, Cassandra.

A divisive presidential election, followed by the fallout of the incumbent losing, certainly didn’t help. We, as a nation, only grew farther apart.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons other than this for the discord we’re experiencing. I’m shooting from the hip, looking for a Cliffs Notes version. People tend to agree with the politicians and pundits they like, and will emulate them. How many arguments have you had that were nothing more than regurgitating some talking head? And if you’re still having them, why bother?

I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything except maybe the basic tenets of civilized human interaction. Business owners have the right to impose certain restrictions on who can enter. If you hate wearing a mask, why patronize a business that requires you to wear one? Why continue to give them your money when this most divisive of issues is in direct opposition to your strongly held beliefs?

This argument goes both ways. There’s a business on Highway 50, near Apple Hill, that has a large sign informing people that those who wear masks are not welcome. Can you imagine a staunch mask ally entering this place? Is the coffee that good there?

I think it’s pretty simple. This isn’t about political beliefs or withholding our dollars from businesses that don’t share our ideals. Instead, we’ve got a routine we like, and no belief is stopping us from hitting Starbucks this weekend.

We’re not high-minded political animals. If anything, we’re lazy.

We’d prefer to sneer at those who wear a mask, or don’t, or won’t shake hands, or demand a handshake — whatever they’re doing that we don’t like, we’re opposed.

We’re just not going to do anything about it. Not really.

I miss the days when I could wear a mask and no one would blink. Now people give me the side eye, or don’t, depending on if I’ve got one on.

This was supposed to be fun.

Alan Riquelmy is the editor-in-chief of the Sierra Sun and editor of The Union. He can be reached at or at 530-477-4249

Masks hang on a coat rack at the newspaper’s office.
Photo by Alan Riquelmy

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