Enforcing The Rules They Like

By Timothy Pauley

As I stood in a substantial line waiting to use the telephone, I couldn’t help but notice that of the 8 people in line, absolutely none of them were engaging in any kind of social distancing. I was able to confirm this with a simple experiment.

When the person in front of me moved forward, I remained stationary, creating a distance between us of approximately 5 feet. Not ideal, but it felt better. But the person behind me was unsettled by this. So unsettled in fact, that he kept inching closer to me. Within 2 minutes, he was so close that when I leaned back slightly to stretch, I actually made physical contact. Unfortunately, even then he was not deterred from his intentional crowding.

Then I conducted a mask survey. Of the 8 people in line, 2 had their masks around their necks, 3 wore them across their chins, and two across their mouths with their nose completely exposed. I was the only one wearing a mask as we are admonished to.

So I looked around some more. There were all kinds of techniques of noncompliance. While the nose exposed was clearly the favorite, some hung their mask from one ear. some pulled it below their mouth whenever they spoke (even though these masks do little to obstruct a voice). Another popular technique was to secure the top strap and allow the lower ones to dangle, creating kind of a veil over their mouth. And then there were the Trump guys. The guys who could not be bothered with something so trivial as a social conscience. They don’t need a mask at all. But to avoid the rare guard who might care, they’d still carry one in their pocket.

This clearly called for another experiment. Even though there are signs all over about masks being required and even though there are signs describing both the proper and the improper ways to wear them, it seems this rule is not a popular one to enforce. But what about other seemingly minor (if you don’t believe COVID-19 is a threat anyway) rules?

We have a rule that we must keep our shirts tucked in. This includes when we are wearing shorts. I’ve always thought of this rule as akin to a busted lens on your tail light or not coming to a complete stop when making a right turn at a red light. In the overall scope of things, does it really matter if your t-shirt is tucked in to your gym shorts?

In fact, the only thing I see this rule really accomplishing is to humiliate fat people by calling attention to their protruding bellies. No, the real purpose of this rule appears to be to provide a reason for a guard to accost a prisoner. It was perfect for my experiment.

So I untucked my t-shirt and proceed to see how long it would take to be instructed to tuck it in. Surely longer than it took to enforce the mask rule. You know, the rule that actually serves a useful purpose…

As I walked toward the yard, people all around me were wearing their masks in a clearly noncompliant way. No way was I going to be the first one to draw attention.

At this point I should probably disclose that I do not sport a belly that hangs over my waistband, conspicuously or otherwise. This of course takes the possible humiliation reason for enforcement off the table, thus increasing my odds of making it to the yard unaccosted even greater.

As I approached the first guard, I watched as he scanned the oncoming crowd with his eyes. He had to see the same things I was seeing. Masks stretched across chins, noses protruding over the tops of masks, even a dozen or so mouth veils flapping like a flag in a windstorm in front of guy’s mouths. No way was my t-shirt going to be the thing that stood out in this crowd as an act requiring correction.

Then, as I was finally close enough to provide him with an unobstructed view of my waist, I watched in fascination as his eyes immediately shifted to me.

 ‘Sir. Sir!’ he blurted out as I passed.

I ignored him and kept walking. I had to be certain.

‘SIR!’ he’s yelling now. A quick glance in his direction confirmed that, yes, he was yelling at me.

He informed me that my untucked t-shirt would not be tolerated. In the time it took him to issue these corrective instructions, no less than a dozen guys passed us in clear violation of the mask protocol.

Walking away, with my t-shirt properly tucked in of course, I contemplated the result of my experiment. While nobody will ever get sick due to the exposed hem of my t-shirt, this was clearly far more worthy of correction than a dozen people wearing masks in symbolic compliance. But my last glance at this guard proved rather instructive. His nose too, was hanging over the top of his mask, spreading whatever might be coming out of his lungs out there into the crowd. Oh, but his shirt was tucked in…