Choosing health over public opinion

Over the past month, I’ve made some major adjustments in my life. I’m laying off the antihistamines and nasal spray and developing a new and improved strategy for allergy relief.

You see, I’ve started wearing surgical masks — the kind doctors wear in the operating room or on Halloween when they go trick-or-treating. They’re the same masks people put on when they ride the subway during flu season. In fact, they were the fashion rage in Manhattan during the Asian flu, bird flu and swine flu scares.

For me, this is a last resort. I’m tired of a runny nose, sneezing and wheezing from dust, mold, dog dander, pollen, and those smelly cleaning products my wife uses, not to mention the scented trash bags and antiseptic wipes.

I’m also tired of free-range germs. If more people wore these masks, we’d have fewer respiratory infections and fewer outbreaks of bad breath. They provide great protection against people like Miley Cyrus, who are always spreading germs because they can’t keep their tongues in their mouth.

And don’t get me started on perfume, which has tormented me since I stopped smoking two packs a day and realized I had a nose with olfactory sensors that actually worked.

Wearing a mask is such a simple solution to such a complex problem, even though it embarrasses my wife and kids, especially when the FedEx man or the Jehovah Witnesses come to the door, and I greet them like Dr. Frankenstein, who just stepped out of the laboratory for a trip to the john.

When their friends visit, they think I’m a little weird, but I don’t care because my health is more important to me than public opinion.

“Tell them not to come if they think I’m strange,” I say. “Besides, they always reek of perfume, and anyone who’s not part of the solution is part of the problem — Eldridge Cleaver said that, or maybe it was Mother Teresa.”

“I’ll keep my girlfriends away if you take off that silly mask.”

“You have no sympathy for the pain I’m in.”

“The neighbors see you wearing that mask and they think you’ve spent the afternoon robbing ATMs.”

“I’m exercising a constitutionally guaranteed right. Their landscapers wear these masks when they blow the leaves.”

We had a fierce debate over Christmas because I was wearing my mask.

“Ahhh, Dad, what do you have on?” one of my daughters asked. “It looks really bizarre. If you’re trying to be funny, it’s not working.”

“This is a latex-free, high-filtration efficiency face mask that limits my exposure to bacteria, dust, smoke, pollen and body fluids. At least that’s what it says on the box.”

“You look creepy wearing that thing.”

“Well, the dentist wears one, and that doesn’t stop you from getting your teeth cleaned. Would you want him pulling a Miley Cyrus and drooling on you?”

Even the dog gets upset when I put on my mask. She starts barking insanely and jumps up, trying to pull it off my face.”

“Down, Girl, it’s only me, the Master and Provider.”

No dice. She keeps barking until I take it off and start sneezing.

Last week, I had a minor crisis because I couldn’t find my mask.

“WHO took my mask???” I yelled, running from room to room.

“Did you take my mask???” I asked my wife. “Who took my mask???” She shook her head in disgust and said, “It wasn’t me.”

I grabbed the phone to call my daughters. I start dialing and sniffling at the same time, when I suddenly noticed a patch of blue fabric behind the sofa. When I bent down, I found my beloved mask chewed up on the floor, and the dog looking up at me, guilty as sin.

“Nasty little mutt. No more treats for you.”

Joe Pisani may be reached at