The Seven Circles of Masking Hell

Not everyone is a perfect mask wearer.

April 11, 2021

Phillip Chin

Staff Writer at Motus News

Over quarantine, I’ve gotten into the habit of walking around my neighborhood. During the coronavirus, there’s a lot of variation in the way that people wear (or do not wear) a mask. In Dante’s “Inferno,” there are nine circles of Hell and as the severity of the crime increases the number of people residing there decreases. Here are my seven circles of masking Hell.

Circle 1: N95

If you see someone wearing an N95 surgical mask chugging up a hill, you know that they are a true believer in the cause. Some conspiracy circles believe that N95s are cyborgs programmed by the government to model proper masking behavior. The conclusion is logical: no human is enough of a masochist to willingly wear a gag when they are blocks away from anybody. If further investigation reveals that N95s are indeed human, they deserve a 7 pm round of applause for their sacrifices.

Circle 2: Occasional Masker

These people keep an eye out for other people and mask up whenever someone is nearby. I will admit that I, unfortunately, fall into this category. Wearing an N95 during my entire walk makes the whole thing feel like summiting Mt. Everest. Many people can relate: my whole face under the mask goes damp with condensation and I can hardly breathe. Given that transmission is very low outdoors and I don’t see too many people, the Occasional Masker is not a too egregious level of Hell. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself to sleep soundly at night.

Circle 3: How Does This Work?

These people have apparently never seen anyone wear a mask before because they have no idea what they’re doing. Their mask only covers their mouth, their nose (less common), or they think that humans breathe out of their chins. Most of them just have ill-fitting masks that ride up and down. Some may plead ignorance, but it’s hard to take them seriously when there have been hundreds of people modeling proper masking during the past year of quarantine. Hell, if Dick Cheney can do it right, no one has any excuse. (Well, maybe Donald Rumsfeld, but literally no one else.)

Circle 4: The Fumbler

When happening upon this group, they’ll search their pockets in a carefully practiced routine and reliably come up empty. Then, they’ll give you a crestfallen gaze as if to say, “Well, I tried” and proceed rapidly to a deeper circle of Hell. The more devious will even come up with a mask and then put on a big show of struggling to put it on, only to find that in the meantime, you’ve walked five blocks past them.

Circle 5: Shirt as Mask

Like the Fumblers, these people still have a hint of remorse in their dark, dark souls and will at least put on the thinnest veneer of effort. They grab the front of their shirt, thrust it over their mouth and nose, lower their head, and barrel forward determinedly. These are probably the people that piss me off the most. If shirts were effective as masks, we could all walk around like normal and use our shirts when necessary. Companies would sell straps that attach to the top of shirts and can be quickly thrown over our heads to turn our shirts into mask mode. And indoor dining would be open everywhere because we could hold the shirt up with our left hand and eat through the bottom with our right. 

Circle 6: Wide Walkers

The Wide Walkers’ can be some of the deadliest creatures of all, depending on how wide of a berth they give you. Some will skip happily across the road when they cross paths with someone: these Wide Walkers are largely harmless. Others will simply step off the curb before passing within feet of a victim and are like Lebron James posterizing Kevin Garnett in 2008: possessing absolutely “no regard for human life.” The very worst of the Wide Walker’s ascend (or descend) to the lowest of the lows, the very darkest abyss of masking Hell.

Circle 6: No Mask, Don’t Care

Whereas the Wide Walkers are largely emotionless individuals who will not acknowledge any passer-by’s, this group radiate pride. The few that I have encountered are men who are walking with a masked woman, chuckling at a joke that they’ve made or giving a confident nod to a scared passerby. These are the only people I will directly acknowledge with a dirty look while trying to avoid a direct line-of-sight between my (masked) face hole and their (unmasked) face hole.

I don’t want this article to give the impression that everyone is horrible or to shame people (well, maybe a little). Most of the people on walks are simply looking to get a breath of fresh air and fall into the top two circles of mask wearers. But some still haven’t figured out how to correctly wear a mask or even to wear one at all.

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