Sunday, August 23, 2020

Live Free or Die. The state slogan of New Hampshire

Poster Boy. Bandanna, Oakleys, camo and and an NRA sticker. This dude gave me the stink eye when he caught me taking his picture.
When our son arrived in Taos after driving from Los Angeles, he took tour of town and ran a couple of errands before coming to the house. He reported that he was impressed by the widespread compliance to our governor’s mask requirement. We told him that Governor Lujan-Grisham had battened down the hatches early and had gotten a handle on the pandemic from the get-go. We’re proud of her efforts and the level of cooperation New Mexicans have exhibited. Our little burg declared war on the virus early and went beyond the governor's guidelines. We, the operative word, enacted our own mask ordinance that provides for $500 fines for those who don't care about others. However, we told Garrett, not every town takes the mandate seriously. In fact, we’d taken a driving tour of the Enchanted Circle the week before. When we drove through Red River, a summer vacation destination for Texans, almost no one was wearing a mask. Not that it was a surprise. Texans, I opine, would rather give COVID-19 to the redneck on the next barstool than sacrifice personal freedom. “You can’t tell me what to do,” they seem to say.

“Stay the hell in Texas,” is my retort.

The family that stays together.

Not a care in the world

Leading by example in Red River
Then Monday Peggy, Garrett and I drove to Buena Vista, Colorado to pick up her custom picture frames. On the way back I drove us through buzzy Salida so he could see the bustling tourist town on the Arkansas River. Salida is among my favorite small towns in the Mountain West. It’s got an outdoor sports vibe and burgeoning art scene. It has classic mining town architecture. Think Aspen, Telluride and Ouray. It also sits in a so-called banana belt with a temperate climate. The thing it does not have is masks.

Garrett loves coffee and I love locally owned coffee purveyors. To me every worthy small town has at least one clever, convivial coffee seller. So, my mission was three-fold; see charming Salida, stroll along the shaded river and grab a fresh brew for the road. I found the coffee shop I’d patronized on other visits. We parked next door and walked to the tiny establishment on the corner. All of us are careful about masking and social distancing to the point of phobia. I noticed an unmasked twenty something couple concentrating on their Mac Book Pros. At that moment the woman rose from her chair and pulled her mask over her nose and mouth. A good sign it seemed to me. While we were hesitant to enter, we followed her into the place only to find that neither of the two baristas nor the cook were wearing masks. We looked at each other as if to say, “Let’s blow this joint.”

We began to walk back to the parking lot when we saw two portly couples entering the lot to retrieve their pick-up trucks with gun racks. The men were Central Casting hayseeds, wide-bodied with beards, ball caps and Oakleys. The women were just fat.

We were desperate to get out of Salida, but I did a brisk drive-through of Salida’s energetic downtown and river front. Nary a mask to be seen.

We exited Salida as if we were escaping a burning building. I hadn’t driven six blocks when I saw blinking blue lights in my rearview mirror. “Shit!” I thought. I turned the corner and parked in front of somebody’s driveway. The officer ambled to our vehicle. I rolled down the window while Peggy extracted my registration and proof of insurance from the glovebox.

When officer Holbrook came alongside, I said. “I have no idea what I did.”

He responded. “You were doing 41 in a 25-mph zone.”

I explained, “We were really was lost and just wanted to get back to Highway 50. We just picked up picture frames in Buena Vista and we’re headed back to Taos.”

"So, you're just going up and back.", he confirmed. 

He told me to continue straight ahead and I'd come US 50, to turn right and it would take me to US 285 where we could drive south to New Mexico.

He took my documents back to his cruiser, ran them through the system, and returned to the car. He gave me his business card on which he wrote 41 in a 25 zone.

“Thank you, officer. Thanks for your understanding.”

Once we had completed out transaction I said, “I have a question. We were just downtown, and we noticed almost nobody was wearing a mask. Why is that?”

A little defensive, he answered, “Well, we have a statewide mask mandate but we’re not enforcing it. If we did that’s all we would do.”

I told him. “I wasn’t being critical. I was just surprised. Thanks for your courtesy, Officer Holbrook.

What I didn’t but wanted to say was, “So you’ve calculated that the danger of someone driving 41 in a 25-mph zone is greater than 5,000 unmasked yahoos on the street, in bars and restaurants and riverfront park.”

Red River made the same calculation.

I love Salida but won’t return till the pandemic has run its course or there’s a vaccine. And I hate Red River and all that it says about half of America. Still I’m driving there right this minute to get some photographs that will illustrate its stance. After all Red River’s mayor has declared that “I disagree with the governor’s mask mandate and we won’t be enforcing it in our town.”

Let’s reflect on some American’s unwillingness to accept the facts about curbing the pandemic. It is widely held by the medical and scientific communities that if all our citizens would wear masks for three weeks, we’d have this monster under control. Yet many Americans still refuse to do the right thing. Imagine, please, that we had all united in that effort four months ago. There would be tens of thousands fewer deaths and our economy would be functioning at a semblance of normalcy right now. Schools would have safely reopened. Denial, delaying and obfuscation have led us to this place. A dearth of leadership has made America a pathetic shell of what it was. We are no longer a beacon. We’re a punchline. We’re an example all right, an example of how not to act during a crisis. Teamwork is for wimps.

1 comment:

Blacks Crossing said...

I am so grateful for your blog today, and saying the things you said about mask wearing, lack of leadership, and political divides in our country. The insanity must end. Fred would like to take a selection of weavings to the new location of the Tierra Wools Gallery, but it is in Chama, and apparently, no one is wearing masks. Chama and Red River have similar ideas about complying with the Governor's mask policy. She is trying her best, but there are still far too many people who believe this is fake news, it is being blown out of proportion, or they won't get it. One more time, America shows the worst of its teenage hood, including SeƱor Stink Eye! Glad Taos is being more logical. Thanks, Steve, for your wisdom today!