I’m reticent to use this space as means of airing personal grievances, and when I do my goal is toward serving the greater good, so to speak.

But I want to share an experience my wife and I had in Wilmington this past weekend as an example of the hysteria created by mask rules and the nonsensical and tyrannical ways businesses choose to apply them.

New Hanover County enacted a rule trying to require people to wear masks indoors. Most businesses have posted signs on the door to that effect. Beyond that, some businesses, from my experience this weekend, ignore the rule. Others gently suggest a mask. 

Others, still, enforce it so rudely you’d think they suspect their paying customers will burst into the businesses and go table to table sneezing onto people’s pizza and cheeseburgers.

That’s pretty much what happened when my wife tried to get us seats at a popular restaurant and brewery on Front Street. The place had just opened for the day, and people — all masked up — formed a neat row at the door. 

I love my wife very much. She’s smart, talented, and has a huge heart. But she loses things. All the time. Her phone, at least once a day, her earbuds, her keys, and her toothbrush. It’s just how she rolls. She lost her mask in Wilmington, joining the hundreds of other face coverings littering streets and sidewalks around the world.

“I liked that one, too,” she told me.

I’ll wear a mask depending on the scenario, and my wife will, too, though we both think the rules usurp individual liberties. We don’t like politicians elected to some random council or commission trying to tell us what to do. Suggest all you like, but mandate nothing.

She stood in line at the Wilmington brewery without a mask. The same brewery and restaurant we visited when our boys were on their first-ever batches of fries. The same place we took them to celebrate their 18th birthdays, and the same place we suggested to friends looking for a great place to hang out in Wilmington.

Never again.

The guy at the door, around noon Sunday, Oct. 24, told my wife she would need a mask to enter, before, of course, taking it off and tossing it on the table like everyone else.

“Sorry, I lost it,” she told him. “Do you have one?”

No, the guy said. But you can buy one at the store around the corner.

We could have, but we certainly did not. We found a great place nearby, where no one was wearing a mask. Something similar happened at a restaurant in Raleigh. A worker asked me to wear a mask even though I was basically standing outside, as the garage-like doors were wide open and unmasked people were sipping beer about three feet from me.

There have been times during this seemingly endless pandemic that I felt hopeful, that people were generally eschewing advice, suggestions, and orders from public health officials and the government. But then the ugly excuses and blaming, nurtured by media-induced fear-mongering re-emerge, like a pumpkin-spice latte in August.

The rate for positive COVID tests for a time fell below the magical 5% threshold, though it was several days before the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services posted the updated numbers. 

I failed to see a smiling newsreader announce the new numbers, even as these people seem to take so much joy in reporting deaths, spikes, clusters, and general murder and mayhem. Didn’t see the 72-point headlines, either. Maybe I just missed them, or, like my wife’s mask, they got lost, too.