When you’re 19, you don’t spend much time worrying about surviving to 20.
When you’re 79 (a week short of 79-and-a-half, thank you) you spend a little more time thinking about surviving to 80.
Yeah, I used “worrying about” in the first example and “thinking about” in the second.
When you’re nearly 80 percent as old as an antique, you are likely to be appreciative of the time already allotted to you, reflecting more on your blessings than on your unfinished plans.
This typically rambling monologue is brought on by the only reason I have seen cited by federal, state and local governments for refusing to mandate wearing of masks to reduce the spread of Covid-19: It denies the rights of the wearers to die of the cause of their own choosing.
If quite a few innocent bystanders are lost in the process because of their refusal ... well ... stuff happens.
A few days ago, I began reflecting on how many of my “rights” are denied to me by my government.
Until my retirement a little more than 10 years ago, I began each weekday by driving to work.
As I got into my car, I instinctively felt my hip pocket to be sure I had my driver’s license. Two of the most exciting days of my life were my 14th birthday, when I got my restricted license, and my 16th birthday, when I got my operator’s license.
Government denied me the right to drive until I reached those ages and first could demonstrate my knowledge of rules of the road, and then my ability to safely drive a two-ton vehicle on public streets.
When I pulled into the street each morning, I had to drive on the right-hand side, even though as a taxpayer I had paid for both sides. Why? Because government decided that was basic to protecting the lives of my fellow motorists and myself. I didn’t have the right to drive on the left.
Early in my driving experience, government decreed that I had to wear a seatbelt. It deprived me of my right to go flying head first through my windshield in case some other motorist chose to exercise his creative motoring rights by driving on the left.
And I was required to stop for every stop sign I came to, even if I was pretty sure that I could avoid a wreck if I sped up to run through it ahead of an approaching car. Another right denied me.
A whole new list of rights were denied me as an employer when I got to the office.
I could not hire a 14-year-old to operate a printing press; I could not pay employees less than the minimum wage; I could not require staff members to work more than 40 hours without paying overtime.
When I went out to lunch, the place I chose to eat had to be inspected periodically by health authorities, and when I paid for my hamburger, I had to pay state sales tax on the purchase, whether or not I approved of the way government spent it.
Okay, it’s only lunch time, and already my freedom has been denied me in nine ways, all designed to protect me or my employees or my fellow citizens.
None of these, I suspect, did as good a job of protecting my life, and the lives of those around me, as wearing a face mask today during the worst American pandemic in 100 years.
Yeah, I’m willing to surrender my right to die of the coronavirus, even if it means wearing a face mask.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. Three things that alarm him — and he is not easily alarmed — are that the number of new cases in the nation is reported in the thousands per day in each state, and the national death toll typically is emphasized only when the numbers go up by increments of 25,000 [recently reaching 125,000]. Or how the number of deaths is compared to American lives lost in the nation’s wars: first, the Vietnam War, and a few weeks later, World War I.)