So, what is all the fuss about wearing a mask these days?

More than 110 years ago, when one climbed behind the wheel of an early automobile, he or she wore a mask, goggles, gloves, and a scarf around his or her neck, for a bit of flair.

And the 21st century’s Tesla had nothing on the automotive engineers of the day. An advertisement in the 1909 edition of the Times-Promoter newspaper, the forerunner to this newspaper, carried a depiction of an electric cabriolet with the promise “this car will carry you 30 miles on one charge.”

Of course, for the longest time, it was required under Mississippi’s antiquated 1890 Constitution that all automobiles were to be preceded at intersections by a man waving a red lantern. I was told that edict was finally stricken from the books a few years ago. Apparently, people then didn’t pay much attention to laws, then, either.

So, masks were nothing new then when people moved out and about, and suddenly they are in fashion again, in some circles. That is only in some circles.

“Wouldn’t be caught dead in one,” I heard a woman say the other day. Hopefully, this poor woman will not get her wish, either with or without a mask during this global pandemic.

Social distancing was an issue then, too. As we know, people in the early 1900s did not regularly wear deodorant. Maybe a little cologne daubed underneath the armpits. Plenty of sweating and no air conditioning. No wonder folks didn’t smile in old photos.

What is the issue with masks? One of my childhood heroes — and the hero of millions of little boys around the world — wore a mask. Who was that masked stranger? Why, it was the Lone Ranger of course.

I’m feeling a little like the Lone Ranger these days. Routinely, I am finding myself among the few who are conducting essential business outside the home while wearing a mask.

When I am joined in a long line by others — six feet apart at first and then sadly I can feel other people’s hot breath on my back— I feel a sense of relief when a fellow mask wearer steps up.

Our eyes meet briefly as if to say, “well at least two of us have a little sense.”

The truth is that whether you wear a mask or not is up to you. No one is going to force you to practice common sense.

The COVID incubation period is between two to three weeks. You know what they say … eat, drink, and be merry.

As for this 55-year-old diabetic with hypertension, I am going to wear a mask. Guffaws and stares aside. I want to live to see my 15-year-old daughter graduate from high school and college. And walk her down the aisle. And eventually, in my doddering old age, welcome grandbabies into the world.

If wearing a mask or not wearing a mask is a political statement for you, try buying a baseball cap, a bumper sticker, or a T-shirt. And that goes for the lefties as well as the righties. This deadly pandemic is an equal opportunity attacker. It doesn’t care if you are a Republican, Democrat, or independent.

As your friend, I urge you to wear a mask while going out in public out of common courtesy and respect for others and to protect the health and safety of those you love. It doesn’t have anything to do with fear, faith, bravado, or machismo. Save that for the high-wire act if circuses are ever allowed to come back to town. Swallow a sword if you dare. But wear a mask. The life you save might be your own.

A prominent physician in our community who attends our small church has issued a plea to her fellow congregants to wear a mask. Especially if you have breathing problems or are at risk for coronavirus from underlying health problems.

Masks come in all shapes and sizes. My sainted mother-in-law has ordered a mask for me in the beloved colors of my Mississippi State Bulldogs. And not to be outdone, they make Ole Miss Rebel masks, too. And Southern Miss Golden Eagle masks. Memphis Tiger masks. Grrrr!

Zorro. The Lone Ranger. Cool dudes and dudettes wear masks in public. Bad cool dudes wear masks, too. Just ask Darth Vader. Yes, he dies in the end. No getting around that. But he lived a very, very long time.

And that cool-looking mask probably had something to do with that.

Robert Lee Long is Curator of the DeSoto County Museum