This week, Dallas–Fort Worth’s NBC 5 shared a brief clip from a broadcast about a new face-mask invention. It supposedly allows people to eat even as they practice recommended behaviors intended to protect others from any virus particles that may escape from their mouths. Here is the version of it that appeared on Twitter, much to the consternation of the social media platform’s users:
Inventors developed a coronavirus mask that lets you eat without taking it off. Squeeze a lever and it opens a slot so you can go at it like Pac-Man. Inventors say the mask lets you can dine out with friends without taking your mask off. https://t.co/pflatss4Cf pic.twitter.com/xo18FMx9c2— NBC DFW (@NBCDFW) May 19, 2020
There are many good questions to ask after joining the 2.74 million viewers who have watched the nine-second clip. Because we are still quarantining, we have time to ask them all. Here is what we would like to know:
- Is this for real?
- Is that guy wearing pajamas?
- Did he color-coordinate his pajamas to match his mask?
- Did you know that the human mouth looks way weirder if you strap a goofy duck-bill apparatus around it?
- What is he eating?
- Is that chicken?
- I think maybe that’s chicken?
- Can you imagine making this mask, putting on your best pair of jammies, picking a spot in your house in front of your trophy case, filming yourself eating bacon or whatever that is, and then sending it out to the news?
- Would you be willing to be seen out in public if you and your friends all had to wear these masks?
- Seriously, is this a prank?
Now let’s take them one by one.
- Probably? The mask’s creator, according to Reuters, is an Israeli inventor named Asaf Gitelis, who describes himself as the vice president of Avtipus Patents and Inventions, based in Tel Aviv. Is that a real company? They have a website! The website does feature some prominently misspelled words, including stuff that you should really get right on the website for an inventor, like “patents” (“patens,” on the site) and “development” (developement”). And the company has applied for other patents in the past, for products like a “shoe dryer” (“an ambulance for millions of wet shoes”), a baby pacifier with a spring-loaded cover, and a mechanical toothbrush. So I am going to assume that this is a sincere attempt to resolve the problem of (a) wanting to wear a mask and (b) wanting to eat food at the same time, without removing the mask.
- It sure looks like it, yes! Why? It’s impossible to say. Maybe he just woke up.
- I mean, yes, it seems that way. There are potential other explanations: the video is shot from the chest up, so maybe he used the fabric from his pajama pants to make the mask, and that is the reason they match. Maybe he is just sitting there pantsless, eating and wearing his horrifying mask thing, because that was the available fabric. Who can say? But regardless, it is plainly evident that regardless of his specific intentions, the man in the video is wearing a top that is the exact same color as his mask thingy.
- This is not something I had ever considered until this video began making the rounds, but now it is clear, yes, this is weird and creepy and we hate it. In the interest of investigative journalism, to better understand the answer to this question I regret to inform you that I googled the cursed phrase “human with duck mouth.” Here is a link to the image results. Do not click that link. There is nothing good that will happen when you click that link.
- I think it’s chicken.
- I think so, but I’m not positive. Man, this guy eats slowly and deliberately. I guess he’d have to, in order to demonstrate the method of the mask, but chewing this slowly and methodically makes you look like a serial killer. I don’t think it would be much better if he weren’t wearing the mask.
- Did you click that link? I told you not to click that link. What did you think you would find? There are a few photos of Ariana Grande pursing her lips, but then there are just nightmare images like this one and this one. Please don’t click.
- Honestly, this is like a very weird student film, like something you might see in a contemporary art exhibit at the local community college, maybe projected onto a wall, over and over again, just these nine seconds repeating on an endless loop. The director sent his friend to the store to find a pajama top that perfectly matched the color of the horrible mask. Their parents wonder why they are spending money on this. Eventually, they both get jobs as camera operators on a Real Housewives spinoff and start families, settling gently into middle age and never again mentioning the strange art film they made in their youth. At night it haunts them.
- Here’s something real: a mask that you open up every few seconds so you can shovel some lasagna or butternut squash soup into your mouth is not doing its primary job, which is to keep you from spreading germs everywhere, in the event that you are a presymptomatic (or asymptomatic) carrier of the coronavirus. This ridiculous mask is obviously a stark illustration of the absurdity of trying to cover your face while simultaneously needing access to your mouth in order to put food in it—someone on Twitter compared it to putting holes in a parachute so you can get to the ground more quickly—but the general problem is the same: wearing a mask is important because an infected person sheds the virus through the mouth with each exhalation. Trying to invent your way out of that with a dopey face mask that opens and closes like Pac-Man is not going to solve the problem of the very serious virus spreading all over the world right now. I am all for human creativity as a response to the pandemic. We need clever inventors, engineers, scientists, doctors, retailers, restaurateurs, and more to be thinking big when it comes to ideas for keeping people safe and healthy and allowing our lives to resume in something that approximates “normal.” But that is not this ridiculous mask, and if the choice is between “try to make a mask that lets you safely eat at Dave & Buster’s” or “just eat at home,” that is not a choice at all. That’s just the unfortunate reality of life during a pandemic.
- If it is, it’s a pretty good one.