The Pollution Mask as Accoutrement
Masks fitted with microfibre filters have joined the list of thriving businesses spawned by state failure: inverters and battery storage of power to tide over occasional grid failure, water purifiers to compensate for the municipality’s inability to keep sewage separate from piped water supply to homes, a rich variety of insect repellents and swatters, to keep at bay the mosquito, which hums a daily paean to our collective failure to stop producing breeding pools of water. As you step out for your morning walk or jog, the spouse who keeps a conscientious count of suspended particulate matter measuring 2.5 microns or less in the neighbourhood, calls out to ask you to wear the mask that has been bought for you.
You pop on the mask and pretend that you do not notice the resemblance you have acquired to the bandits you first saw in the comic books of your childhood. As you accelerate the pace of your walk, the faint chemical smell that suffuses the mask’s filters becomes a stench. As you begin to jog, the mask begins to wheeze for you, the fabric pressing against your nostrils heaving like the sides of a dog going at full tilt. Fellow walkers walk past you and you wonder if you, too, have been unmindful of masked park acquaintances. Lost in thought, you stuff a peanut into your mask and pretend you did not provoke that peal of merriment.