A big toothy grin

Barney Zwartz on the joy of seeing smiles again as masks become optional in Melbourne.

Teeth! I’d forgotten what extraordinary things they are – pointing up and down, variously shaped and coloured but mostly efficiently functional. The reason I’d forgotten is that I hadn’t seen any for months, through Melbourne’s 111-day lockdown of compulsory masks.

As of yesterday, masks can stay in our pockets if we are outdoors and no closer than 1.5 metres apart. And, goodness me, are Melburnians smiling about that. That’s why I’ve seen so many teeth in the past day or so.

Unfortunately, in my case, covering up did the world something of a favour. That’s over now and, once again, small (well-read) children are running in terror, screaming “it’s Frankenstein” as I pass by. But it’s a small price to pay for liberty. It reminds me of the old line, what is the dentist’s busiest time of day? Tooth-hurtee.

Many Melburnians, like me, loathe the hot, damp, claustrophobic feeling of a face mask, especially now that warm weather is upon us. But most, again like me, accepted it as part of the price of community vigilance and protecting our neighbours.

“Virtue is its own reward,” my father used to tell me when I suggested some small service might be worthy of a little extra pocket money. And in this instance he is right – as we smile brightly at one another, we are lifted by the virtuous glow of knowing we can do this because we did the right thing.