May 2021


Don't Mask, Don't Tell

When I was a kid, I thought masks were cool.

Mostly because I thought the Lone Ranger was cool.

The Lone Ranger wore a mask. He also rode a horse, carried revolvers and chased bad guys.

At the end of every episode, after he rode off, people would ask, “Who was that masked man?”

His mask made him look tough and mysterious, which was great for a TV cowboy hero and the kid who wanted to be just like him.

But I’m not a kid anymore.

I’m tired of looking “tough and mysterious” when I run to the grocery store. And I’m tired of everyone else looking like they’re ready to rob a stagecoach or scrubbing in to assist on a brain surgery.

I’ll be glad when these masks are gone for good.

Thankfully, both North Carolina and Virginia just lifted some of the COVID restrictions around gathering and capacity limits.

They also ditched many of the mandatory mask requirements.

This is great news for an old school guy like me who prefers face-to-face interaction over just about anything else.

Sure, working from home had its perks. Making Zoom calls from my kitchen table was fun for a while. Part of me will miss being able to roll my chair over to the fridge for a BLT during webinars and conference calls.

But I’m ready to get back to people.

And my wife is REALLY ready for me to get back to people.

I’m a people person.

I prefer actual people to virtual people.

If I wanted to spend the rest of my days talking to people in tiny boxes I would have auditioned to be the host of Hollywood Squares.

Talking “mask-to-mask” is no good either.

I’d rather sit across from someone and talk to their entire face. Not just the top half, the whole shebang. The way nature intended.

Humans get so much information from facial expressions and body language. Face coverings make it harder to process non-verbal clues about emotion. It turns out you need more than eyebrows to tell if someone is happy, mad or sad.

People have seven universal expressions, 16 complex expressions and dozens of micro-expressions. The more we interact with people, the better we get at understanding how they feel and what they’re saying.

Sometimes we can even figure out what they’re NOT saying.

It’s hard to get a read on someone mumbling through a face blanket.

I know we’re not out of the woods yet, but as vaccination numbers go up and case numbers come down, it’s only a matter of time.

Masks will still be required in some cases and in some places. And plenty of people will continue wearing a mask long after the threat is gone.

I won’t be one of them.

When this mask thing is over, I’m not going to look back. I’ll shred all my masks into confetti or toss them into a fire pit.

I can't wait to get back to the world of handshakes and high-fives.

I’ll celebrate my return to face-to-face with a clean shave and a full calendar of in-person meetings.

Who knows? Maybe there’s a way to make the moment even more dramatic...

All I need is a fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty, 'Hi Yo Silver!'

This time people will be asking, "Who was that UNMASKED man?"

Thanks for reading!



Larry Lombardi
Director of Economic Development

Clean & Elegant
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Clean & Elegant
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