Yesterday a new friend from social media, acquired lately during the isolation and social distancing, Stay at Home, or whatever you want to call it, told me that the mayor of our city had ordered all citizens to wear a mask when outdoors.

Well, it’s impossible to legally buy a mask these days unless you order one online through one of the websites like Amazon, E-Bay or Walmart. I found two cloth-made ones and immediately ordered one for me and one for my daughter who lives with me, but they will not be delivered until April 21.

So, what do I do in the meantime, to be compliant with the law, but more importantly to protect myself and my daughter and the community from the COVID-19, which now has 99 reported cases in Hidalgo County, as of yesterday?

This same friend, a science teacher in the Mission CISD, sent me two YouTube links showing how to make improvised masks with T-shirts or bandanas and folding them appropriately with coffee filters inside to protect ourselves, our loved ones and the public. I chose a T-shirt and coffee filters, three of them, quickly created a home-made mask and went off to Walmart on a survival mission. We have to eat, therefore we must buy groceries.

At the one entrance that you can enter the Walmart Superstore on Expressway 83 and Shary Road in Mission, stood two masked and stern-faced ladies defending the store like guard dogs. In front of me a couple was refused entry for lack of masks on their face. I nervously walked up, fearful that my outlaw, would-be bank robber look, covered face, covered head because of a hiker’s hat from academy, would likely result in a call to 911, and at the very least an on-the-spot interrogation by the Mission P.D. to assess my motives.

To my surprise a got a warm “welcome to Walmart” greeting from, I assume, a smiling face behind the mask. My would-be outlaw garb had become the key to me being seen as an asset instead of a threat to the community.

Inside the store, the ironies of the Pandemic continue. At the International Bank of Commerce IBC branch, the bank tellers are all wearing masks. Wait a minute, if you see someone in a bank wearing a mask, it usually isn’t a teller, is it?

I had to send money to Central America so my next stop was the Money Services section. There you stand in line on yellow spacers on the floor that keep you six feet behind the customer in front of you. I notice that everyone in the store, employees and customers are masked and wearing gloves. Feeling naked with my bard hands, I grab two clear plastic bags from produce that were in my shopping bag and put them on my hands to be in the spirit of physical spacing and social compliance.

I had already completed my transaction online so the only thing I had to do at the desk was scan my debit card. As a frequent user, the Walmart digital system already knows me and I didn’t even have to produce identification. Just as well. Neither my passport nor my driver’s license show me masked with a hat that covers my head and neck.

After seamlessly completing the money transaction without taking any money out of my pocket nor showing identification, I then proceeded to the kiosk to pick up an item I had ordered two days before online. I show the barcode from my cellphone, the machine finds my package and delivers it to me through a glass window that opens long enough for me to take it, and close again.

After buying some produce in the market section I pay with a debit card at an automated teller, seeing my own masked image on the teller camera. The robot cashier had just photographed an outlaw during normal times, but a socially compliant customer in these days of the pandemic.

As of Sunday, April 5, 2020, Hidalgo County had reported 99 cases of COVID-19 prompting Mission Mayor, Dr Armando Ocaña to issue an executive order requiring all persons outdoors in the city to wear some kind of facial covering to protect the public during these trying times.