In order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, we’re supposed to wear masks in public now, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency announced this recommendation toward the end of last week. 

You can transmit the virus even when you’re not exhibiting symptoms, and wearing a mask will help protect others from the germs of the wearer—though masks are apparently less effective, somehow, when it comes to protecting the wearer from the germs of others. 

I don’t understand how that last part works, but then, there’s a lot I don’t understand, such as the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and people who say they prefer sweet potato fries over regular potato fries. My incomprehension doesn’t mean they’re wrong. 

For what it’s worth, I’ve just noticed that the way I phrased the over-my-head rule—“Masks protect others from the germs of the wearer but not the wearer from the germs of others”—is an excellent example of antimetabole, the literary device in which the key words of a sentence are repeated in inverse order. 

Given how things have been going lately, though, maybe a better example of antimetabole for 2020 is this line from Macbeth: “Fair is foul, and foul is fair.”

The CDC’s guidelines advise members of the public to wear “cloth face coverings” rather than surgical masks or N-95 respirators, which should be reserved for health-care workers. The agency says you can fashion coverings from “household items” or make masks “at home from common materials at low cost.”

The CDC has even posted instructions for sewing your own mask as well as for creating a no-sew face covering from a cut-up T-shirt or a bandana–coffee filter–rubber band combo.

My husband, Frank, produced a couple of the T-shirt ones, while my mom, down in Arkansas, whipped up a batch of cloth masks at her sewing machine and mailed them to us in New York. I appreciate that the color of the fabric she chose is lapis lazuli, a shade that really brings out my eyes. 

I also envy her for having skills that are useful during an apocalypse. It makes we wonder: What do I have to offer? An ability to spot antimetabole in health warnings? 

Talk about your nonessential labor, o ye who labor at nonessential talk!

By the way, my mother read a recent post here at Indirect Objects about the quilt at the end of my bed, and she’d like to make a clarification.

In that post, I wrote that she prefers quilting by hand because “she has perfectionist tendencies” and therefore “probably feels that if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right so that you don’t end up with what looks like mass-produced crap.”

But Mom argues that the truly perfectionist method of quilting would be by machine because that way every stitch is made with cold, unerring precision. Quilting by hand, however, can yield varied spacing between stitches as well as other idiosyncrasies and, yes, imperfections. 

She contends, then, that her preference for quilting by hand has less to do with quality than feeling. It’s her view that objects made by hand carry a figurative warmth that machine-produced items lack. 

Which I see now is something I really should have picked up on, considering that the feelings conveyed by inanimate objects are, after all, what this blog is about. 

But as I believe we have established by now, I understand very little.

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