The mask and the necktie

Since the coronavirus disrupted our every-day life, I have not used the train. I missed it, because I like to travel by train. I allow myself a certain luxury, because as long as I can remember I have opted for first class. That gives peace and quiet and makes it easier to enjoy a good book. As a senior citizen I can travel with a discount card, which also gives me the pleasure of six free train journeys a year, within the Dutch borders. Since a few weeks we are allowed to take the train again, also for non-essential journeys. And, as an e-mail from the Dutch Railways informed me a few days ago, there is a free trip waiting for me in the next two months. It’s just a matter of a few simple actions at the vending machine at the entrance of the station, and I can get on the train for free – to Maastricht or Groningen, or anywhere else, and of course the return fare is also free!

But… if I’m going to take advantage of my free train ride in the next week or so, I’ll have to wear a mask. Although it’s still not scientifically established whether masks are really effective to prevent the spread of this terrible Corona-virus, the Dutch government has made it compulsory to wear masks in public transport. So, I will have to comply. By the way, my wife and I have already had a supply of masks for a few weeks, and yesterday my wife brought another box of 50 masks home from the supermarket. After all, you don’t know, whether at some point, a Corona flare-up will be discovered in our village, with the result that we will have to wear a mask when going to the supermarket.

In the meantime, according to several experts, it is doubtful whether making masks compulsory is completely legal. A little over a year ago a law came into effect in the Netherlands that forbids the wearing of a nikab in public transport, in schools and in government institutions. The most important argument was public safety: one should be able to look other persons in the eye and recognize them quickly! The new law also applied to integral helmets and balaclavas, but it mainly affected Muslim women who insisted on wearing a nikab (which was also the intention of the initiators of the law). However, a problem presents itself: According to several prominent lawyers, the government is going against the law it introduced a year ago, by making it compulsory to wear masks, since these also cover most of the face. Undoubtedly extended legal battles will follow.

In the meantime, some wonder whether the Corona-mask will become so common that it will soon be a permanent part of how we dress. Fashion designers are already busy turning the mask into a “fashion statement”. And let’s face it, fashion changes and certain garments come and go. Both the bra and the necktie only became generally accepted in our western world from the end of the nineteenth century onwards. In any case, the necktie is now clearly on its way out. It hasn’t been that long ago that I didn’t want to appear anywhere without a tie. Now there are about fifty ties hanging aimlessly in my closet. Actually, nowadays I only wear a necktie when I’m preaching or attend a funeral.

Will, before too long, the necktie disappear forever and will the mask become a permanent part of our outfit? Who knows? By the way, we can just wait for inventive people to use this new “garment” as an evangelistic tool – to communicate a religious symbol or a pious slogan. But be reassured, the specimens we have purchased are completely neutral.