Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

About those face masks… August 28, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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A clown mask for sale at a Minnesota antique shop. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo


REMEMBER THOSE MOLDED plastic masks, popular Halloween costumes back in the 1960s? OK, if you, then you are younger than me. But I loved those masks because I could transform into someone other than the skinny farm girl I was in real life.


A Halloween mask for sale at Antiques of the Midwest. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


I still remember the year I pressed a gypsy woman mask to my face, pulled on my mom’s colorful, full skirt and a blouse, and slipped bangles onto my arms. I was not elementary-aged Audrey ready to race about town gathering Hershey candy bars, Tootsie Pop suckers and the occasional rock-hard colored homemade popcorn ball that threatened to break teeth. Rather I was this free spirit of a gypsy seeking new adventure.


An Archie mask for sale at an antique shop. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Yet, I wasn’t quite free. I felt trapped inside that hot Halloween mask. It was uncomfortable. It limited my vision as did my missing prescription eyeglasses. In between candy stops, I sometimes pulled the mask up, freeing my face. But I put up with all this uncomfortableness for the fun of Halloween.


Face masks crafted and sent to me by Penny, a blogger friend in Texas.


Now fast forward to today. Each time I leave the house to go to a public place, I grab a cloth face mask. And hand sanitizer. It’s become as routine as grabbing my handbag, as slipping on my shoes. Like Gypsy Audrey of decades ago, I feel conflicted, though, about that face mask. I absolutely, 100 percent, support the wearing of face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and am thankful for the mask mandate in Minnesota. But I don’t like wearing a mask. Just like back in my gypsy days, I find face masks hot, uncomfortable and limiting my vision whenever my glasses fog. But I put up with all the uncomfortableness because I care about protecting others from a disease that has sickened and killed people in my circle or connected to my circle.


A sign posted at the Steele County History Center in Owatonna. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo June 2020.


So, when I head into public and see people without masks (still) or wearing them incorrectly (not covering their noses), my irritation rises. I don’t buy into the “you’re taking away my personal freedom” argument. If I enter a business, I need to wear a shirt and shoes or I won’t be served. If I get in a vehicle, the law requires I belt myself in. And, in Minnesota we also have a hands-off when driving cellphone law.


“Protect the herd” plays off Northfield, Minnesota’s “Cows, Colleges and Contentment” slogan. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2020.


While I’m limiting my public circulation, I’m still out and about. And I’ve seen, in Faribault, way too many people who are either not wearing masks or are “half-maskers,” a new term I just heard a few days ago in a media report. The report focused on the importance of covering the nose, where the virus thrives and can be spewed by simply breathing. You don’t need to be an infectious disease doctor to grasp that basic health concept.


Wearing a face mask the right way, covering your nose and mouth. I photographed this toy monkey in the window of an historic home in Dundas, Minnesota.


About two weeks ago when I went to the local dollar store to pick up greeting cards, I encountered a customer without a mask and saw both cashiers and the customer in front of me wearing their masks below their noses. That same day, I spotted two grocery store employees at two different stores with masks below their noses. And my last visit to the dollar store, I once again saw an unmasked customer and a different cashier with her mask not covering her nose. I’d had enough. I politely asked the cashier to pull her mask over her nose and advised her that the mask was doing no good if she left her nose exposed. She reluctantly pulled the cloth face covering up and then, even before I was completely turned away, pulled it back down, her eyes glaring dislike toward me. I reached for the hand sanitizer in my pocket and squeezed a generous amount onto my palm.

I don’t get it. I just do not get it. Businesses want our business. Yet I see employees wearing masks incorrectly. People want this pandemic to end. Yet, some are half-maskers or no maskers (and that includes customers who come into my husband’s workplace) and/or believe this pandemic is all a hoax. It’s not. It’s as real as the two sympathy cards I’ve sent to friends who have lost loved ones to COVID-19.


FYI: Click here to read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information on how and why to wear a face mask and more.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to “About those face masks…”

  1. Ruth Says:

    Such a simple act, to slow the spread of the virus. It makes me angry, frustrated and sad that so many refuse to wear a mask. How nice that Penny sent you handmade masks. Our knitting store has secret swear masks now- the interior fabric is Not Safe For Work.

  2. Cheryl schrader Says:

    You are so right on. But there are those who refuse to believe it is serious. This will continue as long as the present residence of the White House is living there and probably longer. This is the scariest thing I have ever seen. I worry about my 90 Year old parents who are ok for now and pretty isolated which is good. I too call out the non maskers. And half maskers. If they are employees there is a supervisor. I agree masks are uncomfortable and not fun but neither is the virus or worst

    • Your concern for your parents is legitimate. I’m thankful they are pretty isolated because that helps.

      It was so disheartening to watch part of the Republican National Convention last evening and see (and hear of) so few in that audience of 2,000 wearing masks. It reinforces the belief that this virus is not a threat, thus no need to wear a mask. The President has such a great opportunity to set a good example. The health and science are there to back up the wearing of masks as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19…

      I’ve only called out the one store cashier, but have been tempted to call out others. I’ve held back because you never know how people will react. I go out of my way to steer clear of these individuals who refuse to mask up or wear masks incorrectly.

  3. Norma Says:

    Yes, yes, yes!!!! Wear the darn mask, cover the nose as well as the mouth. So what if it steams up my glasses. My temper gets steamed worse. I have been to my bank once, The Dollar Tree store twice, and both places were following the rules. I have been to medical facilities, and they were very forceful about following the rules. I also watched a portion of the RNC , and was totally disgusted by the lack of masks, and not practicing social distancing.. In fact, I turned it off. Watched DNC last week, and was impressed by the way they did things. I don’ t want 2021 to be a replay of 2020.

  4. valeriebollinger Says:

    I agree. It is frustrating to see no masks and “half-maskers’ – a new term for me.

  5. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    I really have to ask our Target clerks why they’re allowed the shields vs. full masks. Can’t find anything on their corporate web site. Our president wouldn’t know a good example if he was paid for it. That’s all I’ll say about that. Haven’t watched either convention. His was a disgrace. But I did look up what my Halloween in my 50s was like. When you live on a campus and it’s a distance to any neighborhood, I just remember it was dark, I didn’t like it much. Trinity classes did friendly pumpkins as I remember (sort of). The Walther League had fun parties during the 60s, our high school years. Rog Schuenke’s sister Roselyn was in my class. We dressed all in pink as a sister’s duo act of the time with masks her Mom made. Sang something, can’t remember what. Have to look that up too. Fun times. Touched bases with her a few weeks ago. My daughters in the 70s had a great time, wore nothing fancy, lots of makeup..They were both in glasses too. Always seemed to be cold and rainy for T&Ting, we did live in a neighborhood. Their Lutheran school classes always did something fun. They are absolute mask advocates.

    • It’s interesting that you mention face shields vs full masks, because…when I was at Dollar Tree, one of the cashiers was wearing a shield and not a mask. So that combined with the half-masker cashier and my prior experience at this business leaves me feeling unsafe.

      But my experience at Target in Northfield several weeks ago was also not good. The front entrance was clogged with customers entering and getting carts, waiting in line for pick-up or self-check or shopping at the bargain shelves that stood like a road block. I felt like I was walking through a minefield. I looked online for a contact email to send my concerns rather than call. I couldn’t find anything. Based on my experience, I’m not ready to return to this Target any time soon. However, I will say employees were right on top of sanitizing carts and self-checkouts after each customer usage.

  6. Susan Ready Says:

    Your approach to making a public service announcement regarding wearing masks with some eye catching Halloween type masks was creative. I totally support your thoughts. But often I hesitate to call people out for fear of some type retaliation as I live in an area where many don’t take mask mandate too seriously. Such dilemma when it’s such a small thing to do to be safe.

  7. It is a difficult thing to confront someone who is not wearing their mask properly or who does not have one at all which is why I have really limited where I go. I did attend a painting class outside last week but asked prior to going if folks would be masked. I was told yes and when I got there I deliberately chose a seat far away from others. I sat on a bench and painted while others sat at tables. One woman took her mask off and one other had hers lowered at times. I was glad that I had chosen where to sit away from them. Even if we were outside it is the right thing to do. Honestly. I limited my time there, my painting was horrible ( I blame siting on a bench –haha) but I supported the friend who was leading the class. So I continue, like you, to be cautious and aware . That is key. Cute post –I remember those hot plastic masks well.

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