‘It’s Time for Real Life’


Washington Dulles Airport buzzed with fully masked but not socially distanced travelers late on a rainy and unseasonably cold Monday afternoon. We were in the terminal that comprised mostly international flights, checked in and screened for a long flight over the Atlantic.

I had gotten used to not wearing a mask, and opted for glasses over contact lenses for the red-eye flight to Charles DeGaulle Airport in Paris. Ugh, I’d forgotten why I hated wearing masks with glasses. After all, every one of our nation’s 50 states, some since the beginning of the pandemic, had either eschewed or canceled most mask mandates, except for medical facilities and transportation. I had hoped that the CDC would allow their mandate to expire on April 18th, which was already the subject of a federal lawsuit from with support from major airlines and many others would win the day before our trip.

But not the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which of course extended the mandate until May 3 for public transportation, including airports and airlines. I’d been hoping they would follow even Hawaii’s lead (the last state to drop most mask mandates), but no. Back to this lovely look.

Those who wear glasses wearers know the experience. Then came the news over my phone. Kathryn Mizelle, a federal district judge from Florida’s (of course) Middle District – and Trump nominee (of course!), ruled that the CDC had exceeded its authority and violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The former Supreme Court law clerk to Clarence Thomas (Le Horreur!) struck down their ability to enforce their illegitimate order.

Her opinion is a tour de force. Of course, Democratic bloviators like notorious panic porn purveyor, former Obama administration official, and ex-Biden administration advisor Andy Slavitt disagree. Always wrong, but never in doubt. Pro-maskers were more interested in discrediting Judge Mizelle then addressing her specific arguments in a well-crafted and reasonable 59-page opinion. She blew apart the government’s argument that mask mandates were part of the CDC’s legal mandate for “sanitation.” How effective was that, comparing states with and without mask mandates?

Usual Democratic Party apologists at Vox.com and Bloomberg.com were quick to attempt to discredit her. During her largely uneventful confirmation in late 2020, she had been rated by the anti-conservative American Bar Assocation as “not qualified” for lack of experience – she was 33 years old at the time – as she otherwise breezed through her Senate confirmation.

After all, aside from being “over” the pandemic, that masks have done little if nothing to “slow the spread.”

My immediate impulse was to rip the worthless face diaper from my head and wave it in celebration. I resisted, dutifully queued up to board the plane, and found my way to my economy seat, avec masque. The usual announcements reminded me that “federal law requires wearing a mask at all times” while on the plane. My urging to refresh the tree of liberty were growing.

About three hours into our overseas journey, a senior flight attendant came on the intercom to alert us to the news. Reticent at first, she announced that masks were now optional on our flight. Further, masks also were not required in our destination — France.

I quickly tore off my mask and waved it over my head, a small but defiant act of momentary liberation from my economy class seat. No one followed my example. Most people didn’t quite know how to respond. None that I saw followed my example.

That is, until flight attendants first began to remove their masks. One at a time. No one objected. By the end of our flight, mask-wearing dropped noticeably, and a few were seen ditching them on our way to luggage claim. No one was exercised either way by those who chose to continue to wear masks, or those of us who quietly cheered, “hallelujah.”

I can only imagine the conversation between airline CEOs and their skittish lawyers, government relations professional, Human Resources leader, and probably the communications director on Monday afternoon as Judge Mizelle’s order was announced.

The general counsel likely first breezed into the CEO’s office, perhaps with the communications director, and the lobbyist in tow to discuss how the airline would respond.

“Sir, as you know, we sent a letter of support for the lawsuit,” the counsel asserts. “We’re on record, and we received some blowback for that,” he highlights, glancing with furrowed brow towards the PR guy. “But we need to be careful about how we respond here.” The government relations expert echoes the sentiment, citing strong support from the Biden Administration and Democrats in Congress for the mask mandate. Surely, an appeal would be forthcoming, and the airline could still force mask-wearing even where the government doesn’t. “We’ve always said, ‘safety first,’” the lobbyist quickly notes.

“At a minimum, sir, we should not be first,” the lobbyist quickly follows up, sensing defeat. “We’re heavily regulated, of course, and don’t want to incur official wrath.”

After all, this is controversial. “And what if one of our flights becomes a super-spreader event, resulting in death and injury,” the counsel snorts. “We can no longer count on protection from a government mandate to shield us. The trial bar will be salivating.”

The human resource director reminds the CEO that the flight attendants and pilots support ending the mask mandate, especially the former. “Flight attendants hate having to enforce this,” the “chief people person” says. A customer service director meekly raises their hand. “We’re already getting calls from customers about when we’re dropping the mask mandate. Have you seen the polling? They’ve been through a lot during this pandemic.”

The PR guy chimes in. “I’ve already received 14 calls and messages from all the major media, asking when – not if – we’re dropping the mask mandate.”

Finally, the CEO’s secretary brings in a message. “Alaska Airlines just become the first airline to announce they are making masks optional on flights, immediately.”

All eyes turn to the CEO. He looks around, focusing on the lawyer. “How many super spreader events have we had on airlines to date?”

“None, sir,” the counsel states, “at least involving our airline. Our HEPA circulations systems, health screenings, and other sanitation procedures clearly seem to be working.”

The CEO wastes no time. “Where’s the draft communique to employees, customers, and the media that we’re lifting the mandate immediately, and making masks optional on airlines?” The communications director runs out to get to work. “I don’t mind not being first in this instance, but I sure as hell do not want to be the last one. We’re going to be a fast follower, if not right there with the pack,”

“Besides, it’s time we got back to normal.”

The government relations pro runs out after him. “Be sure to encourage people to keep wearing masks,” he meekly urges. “Andy Slavitt might say mean things about us, and he has the President’s ear!”

And, indeed, the former Biden counsel did just that.

To which everyone says, “so what?” Or perhaps here in France, “et alors?”

Especially in Paris, where fewer people obviously wear masks in public or in tightly-packed restaurants and museums than they do in Arlington, Virginia. If the French get it, why can’t Andy and his fellow travelers? “No one is wearing masks here in France,” our Algerian-born driver proudly asserts as we crawl through busy rush hour traffic towards downtown Paris. “Not in restaurants, not in museums, not anywhere.”

After returning from dinner, we noted that the plexiglass shields that greeted us at our hotel’s reception desk upon checking were gone. “It’s time to get back to real life,” the clerk said.

Maybe having a major election this week in France is a factor. Funny how elections work, and the consequences they sometimes have, such as judicial nominations and confirmations.

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There are 2 comments.

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  1. Chris O Coolidge
    Chris O

    Kelly D Johnston: I quickly tore off my mask and waved it over my head, a small but defiant act of momentary liberation from my economy class seat. No one followed my example. Most people didn’t quite know how to respond. None that I saw followed my example.

    Well done! Sorry you weren’t on one of the flights I saw video from with cheers sounding out.

    • #1
  2. genferei Member

    Don’t you still have to wear masks in the Paris Metro?

    • #2
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