Yesterday evening, I took my kid to the rink for the first time in seven-ish months. She had to be dressed in full gear except for helmet and skates. There would be no dressing rooms available, no parents allowed into the arena, no use of the water fountain to refill bottles of water.
How the world has changed.
But we count ourselves lucky. At least she’s getting some exercise in her beloved team sport. (Ringette, very similar to hockey.)
After she was checked (health check in the app, clipboard for the general questions) she entered the arena and disappeared. I wasn’t worried; she’s been skating since age 4. She just turned 13 last week. She can manage without me there.
She’ll be fine.
I on the other hand was not fine.
Here’s the thing.
In my location (Toronto, Canada) masks are mandatory indoors, but not outdoors unless social distancing is not possible.
The rule for this week (and maybe for the next months, I don’t know, things keep changing in the wrong direction) is that inside the arena, a maximum of 10 people are allowed on the ice (1 coach and 9 skaters). No one is allowed in the viewer’s area. So the parents who drove the girls to the rink stayed outside, or in their car.
Some people wear masks anyway when outside even if they are physically apart from others. I don’t have a problem with that. Each individual can do what they feel is best.
So yesterday, I saw a few parents and coaches hanging around the arena entrance and almost all of them wore masks.
I stayed back – as luck would have it, this particular arena was ten minutes away from home and I had dinner going before we left, so I wanted to return to finish.
Except…there were people there whom I haven’t seen in many months. People I’ve spent years with at practices and games, local and away tournaments…
I was kind of excited to have a conversation with people who were, you know, not virtual. 🥺
But something became very clear very quickly.
Although I could hear voices from my location several meters apart from the closest person, I could not understand the words they were saying.
I strained my ears (which are broken, damaged, due to a childhood illness) which hurt my brain, so I stopped. I gave up, and walked away disappointed and resigned.
The amount of mental energy it requires for me to participate in a masked conversation is not worth the mental stress and fatigue I suffer afterwards.
Stepping closer to the group may have helped a bit. But not being able to see their faces – not just to read lips, but also to absorb expressions – was futile because of the masks. Even though most know of my hearing challenge (although many probably forgot), It’s not up to me to say ‘I can’t hear this way, please remove your mask’.
It is what it is.
Note: I can hear enough to pass as normal. Most people would not immediately see that I have hearing loss. I can, and do manage fine in most normal (not masked) circumstances. However, I get mentally fatigued quicker than most. This is because the broken parts inside my ear canal send distorted sounds to my brain which is then trying, and failing, to process the sounds into language.
The masks are making socializing in person very difficult for the hearing challenged.
Keep this in mind when you talk with the elderly.
And don’t judge someone to be anti-social without knowing why they’re acting the way they do. There is always more going on than meets the eye.
For me, I’ve had decades of experience with this hearing situation and yet, it still affects me almost every single day.
Believe it or not, despite my heavy use of online social, I do enjoy, even crave, in-person socialization. I like small, intimate gatherings, conversation between two friends, chats among small groups of sport parents in rinks or restaurants… that sort of thing.
But the masks…they will hinder some of this for me.
Isolation is going to be the biggest hurdle to manage in the coming winter months for many people, but especially for those who have trouble with the mask wearing for one reason or another.
I’m dreading it. And I know I’m not alone.
Please be kind and understanding while we navigate the complexities of this endless coronavirus pandemic. 🇨🇦🏒😷