Late in the afternoon on a Friday in April 2021, I went to Marie Blanchère on Middle Neck Road. Hanging out in a leisurely group were five men without masks. I had rushed in and was rushing out when I noticed them.
I put my purchase in my car and made a split-second decision to return. I told them their being without masks was an affront to our community of neighbors where too many have been sickened and have died by the coronavirus. Thousands.
One of them responded to me with well-practiced shrewdness: He tried to reverse the focus. He told me I needed to be six feet away, which made me think to myself, “Ahh, they know the rules. This is deliberate. They know what they are doing.”
Infectious disease experts are imploring people to be cautious and respect the threat of the virus, but these guys are consciously playing fast and loose with the New York State mask mandate.
There were a handful of other people inside the bakery, on line at the long counter and wearing masks. Two of them nodded to me when they overheard what I said.
Wanting to confirm my impression of the loungers, I said something to them in Yiddish. Their faces went blank for the moment—that is to say, they were unfamiliar with the language. They did not inquire what I had said. They should have.
I asked an employee why these men were not called to account about mask-wearing, in keeping with the sign at the door. The answer was that they come regularly, on Friday (before Shabbos), do not wear masks, and have even tried to order food maskless.
Their excuse for remaining sans masks is that they are “eating,” though the eating was long past.
Indignation is not an option to indulge given the need to stay safe in the time of the coronavirus, so I left behind five grown men, straddling their midlife and old enough to know better, who had no intellectual acquaintance with or interest in a virus that has ensnared the people of more than 180 countries.
If you want to see these men in your mind’s eye, picture them leaning back, their hands folded on their bellies.
What to do. Call the police?
Alert the media. (Record the betrayal. Spread the word.)
By the way, Marie Blanchère has outdoor and rooftop seating and it was a warm day.
I could not decide, as I thought about it, if collectively the five men share the IQ of one house plant or each has the IQ of an individual house plant. In the end, it seemed a moot point. After all, a house plant has no IQ: zero plus zero would still be zero.
(I know, I know, apologies to my friends who are devoted gardeners. They would say even a house plant would know better.)
Rebecca Rosenblatt Gilliar
Nothing has changed in Great Neck since a year ago. See my letter describing last May 2020.