NEW YORK — The Centers for Disease Control recently judged that fully vaccinated Americans should be free to ditch their masks indoors and outdoors.
The same should apply on airlines, starting 30 seconds from now.
I endured a first-hand experience in the sheer folly and tyranny of airborne mask mandates on Monday afternoon. I flew back to New York City after four glorious days in lovely, charming Charleston, South Carolina. I spent Monday morning touring historic Fort Sumter before heading to the airport for JetBlue Flight 1674 to JFK.
After we reached 33,980 feet and a cruising speed of 521 MPH, the flight crew handed out drinks and snacks. I had a small orange juice and some delicious PopCorners chips, made with pressed popcorn and a delightful hint of sugar.
As I savored this very tasty treat, handed to me by a JetBlue steward, that same crew member soon told me, “Sir, you have to wear your mask.”
“I can’t,” I answered. “I’m still eating.”
He returned about 20 minutes later, to harass me again and insist that I wear my mask, which actually is a Copper Fit gator that I have kept around my neck and lifted over my mouth and nose on request. I have used these items over the last year. While more intrusive than no mask at all, they allow a modicum of respiration, unlike the smothering-pillow sensation that most masks instill.
“I’m still eating my chips,” I explained to him, once more.
A few minutes later, a stewardess approached me and placed a yellow slip on my tray table.
“NOTICE TO CEASE OBJECTIONABLE AND ILLEGAL BEHAVIOR,” it officiously declared. “Your behavior violates federal law,” the form stated, “Immediate cooperation is required to avoid prosecution and removal from this aircraft at the point of arrival.”
Citing chapter and verse of various statutes, this “formal warning” indicated that federal law prohibits “interference or intimidation of an airline crewmember,” “creating an alcoholic disturbance,” “Smoking on any JetBlue flight or in the aircraft lavatory,” or “Drinking any alcoholic beverage unless served by a crewmember.” I committed precisely zero of these misdeeds.
Astonished, I told the stewardess that I could not wear my mask while finishing my PopCorners chips.
“You’ve been eating the whole time,” she snapped. “Those are just crumbs.”
I know of no federal law that compels any American to wolf down his food. As my friends know, I am a painfully slow eater — never mind that my sainted, but even slower, mother accuses me of wolfing down my food. If eating slowly is illegal, that’s news to me. As for crumbs, where is it written that one cannot eat the tiny bits of chips at the bottom of the bag, especially when they are too delicious to discard? Waste not, want not.
The stewardess coldly announced: “You will be met on the ground.”
I e-mailed a dear friend back home, via in-flight WiFi:
“If you don’t hear from me, call Fox News and tell them to blast Jet Blue and Fauci!” I told him, expecting a detachment of machine-gun-toting agents to drag me off the plane. “With any luck, I will not be in jail.”
A few minutes later, worried that this could get really ugly, I sent my friend another, slightly more serious e-mail. “Just in case these people put a knee on my neck and kill me, let me say this:
“It was really wonderful knowing you. You are a very special man, and I am so lucky ever to have called you my friend and been yours. Too bad we didn’t meet sooner.”
“I will leave it to you to lead the Deroy Murdock Riots.”
As we made our final descent, the pushy steward/tormentor told the passengers via the P.A. system, “Please remain seated until I make an announcement.”
As the jet door opened, I anticipated flight marshals, or worse, to come aboard. Instead, a serious-looking, but unthreatening, woman stepped onto the plane, walked down the aisle to seat 5C, and told me that she was JetBlue’s lead gate agent. “Please come with me.”
I asked, “Is there a problem?”
“Let’s speak off the plane,” she replied.
As we traversed the jetway, she said that the crew contacted airport personnel from almost 34,000 feet to report me for being “uncooperative.”
I explained that I was eating the very same chips that the crew asked me to consume, and that I could not do so while wearing a mask.
“Passengers have to wear masks on board,” she said.
“I can’t do that and eat.”
She repeated the policy and said that she wanted to make me aware of it.
She was polite and respectful. Thankfully, this was not the TSA SWAT team that I feared would make this a federal incident. No handcuffs. No six-pack on the cold airport tile. No knee in the neck.
Still, this was way too much ado about nothing.
Jets now filter air more thoroughly than kidneys clean blood. Vaccinations are available everywhere, and some 60 percent of American adults have had at least one COVID-19 inoculation. And those who are vulnerable or terrified are perfectly free to avoid airplanes. Only prisoners are forced onto aircraft at gunpoint.
CDC says that fully vaccinated people can ditch masks indoors and out. So, let’s dump all airborne mask mandates. Those who love masks can continue to wear them — for health reasons, to broadcast their virtue in Hogg-like fashion, or both.
And the rest of us can discard these infernal masks once and for all and enjoy the friendly skies.
Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News Contributor, a contributing editor with National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.