When Did Travelers
Become Lone Rangers?
THURSDAY, MAY 13, 2021 -- Old line: Who was that masked man?

New answer: Business travelers.

Our world turned upside down again today when the CDC said fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors, outdoors and anywhere in between.

Except, you know, for us. The federal mask mandate on public transit remains in effect until September 13. That means airports or rail terminals won't lift their individual mandates anytime soon, either. Hotel chains haven't rushed to announce they are lifting their masking requirements. So you have to assume we'll need masks in public areas of lodgings for the time being.

What's it all mean?

In short, travelers and the unvaccinated--the vax deniers, the vaccine hesitant, the Coronavirus-is-a-hoax loons and the kids who've only been eligible for a shot since this morning--now are in the same metaphoric boat. We all have to wear masks.

It seems like a harsh sentence for us flyers, who really have been good soldiers during the pandemic. Worse, it means we'll have to endure another round of media "explainers" about the efficacy of HEPA filters, self-aggrandizing bleatings from U.S. airline executives and holier-than-thou lectures from Sara Nelson, the Mask-Up Barbie of the flight attendants union. And lord only knows what Tucker Carlson, the unhinged frozen-dinner-heir-turned-fake-populist, will spew.

Don't get me wrong. I am thrilled that in our alter ego as human beings we can rip off our masks. I hate 'em, mostly because they fog up my eyeglasses and leave me staggering nearly blind in supermarkets, home-improvement shops and the few other places I currently frequent.

Today is the day we've been waiting for after more than a year of sporting secular niqabs. We've come a long way since we scrounged around our old business class amenity kits and repurposed eyemasks as face coverings.

But having to continue wearing masks in our superhero identities as travelers seems stupid. Kinda like Tonto, the Lone Ranger's "Indian" sidekick, being played by a Canadian-born Mohawk who had Jewish heritage and Catholic schooling.

Aircraft are confining enough without going all Lone Ranger for a two- or 12-hour flight. Being masked on a train is dumb considering how few people are on trains these days. And it's hard for me to make bad jokes with front-desk clerks when they can't see my sardonic smile. There's only so much eyebrow raising you can do before the clerk thinks you're inexplicably doing a bad Groucho impersonation.

If you give me the entire weekend to think about it , I can probably come up with one or two marginally plausible reasons why travelers need to stay masked. But right now, just a few hours after an unmasked President Biden gave a nice, empathetic victory speech in the White House Rose Garden, I don't have anything to offer.

Freeing vaccinated America from mask mandates is great stuff. Segregating vaccinated travelers and lumping them with the anti-vaxxers is silly.

We deserve better. There's no reason for it.

But, of course, we put up with lots of dumb things on the road. This, too, will eventually pass. So keep your masks at hand, play by the rules just a little longer and grit your teeth at the irony and stupidity of it all.

That's all I have to say today. Hi ho, Silver! Away!

More than a few of you have contacted me asking for the link to buy those convention-like zip-top plastic protectors for your CDC vaccination card. It's here. And if you successfully scrounged eye masks from amenity kits for emergency face covering use, I'm sure you can scare up a lanyard from somewhere in your travel past. One caveat: Apparently, not all CDC vaccination cards are the same size. Make sure to measure yours before purchasing.