The author gets warm with a mask at Alaska’s Matanuska Glacier on Sunday, March 7, 20201. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

The author gets warm with a mask at Alaska’s Matanuska Glacier on Sunday, March 7, 20201. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Out of the Office: Warming up to masks

A March 3 lead paragraph in a news story in The New York Times asked, “When can I throw away my mask?”

For me, the question is, “Will I throw away my mask?”

Let’s set aside for a moment what Ed Yong wrote in the September 2020 issue of The Atlantic: “Wild animals harbor an estimated 40,000 unknown viruses, a quarter of which could potentially jump into humans.”

Our public health policy makers should definitely worry about the next pandemic, but I can only handle one pandemic at a time. Another pandemic is not the reason I’m questioning tossing all of my masks when the opportunity arises.

I’ll admit there have been some positives to having to wear a mask when I go to cover school district sports events.

Several times I’ve been running a bit late and panicked that I wouldn’t have time to shave or brush my teeth, then suddenly had the relieving thought, “Wait a minute. Who cares? I have to wear a mask!”

But that’s also not the reason I’m questioning hurling my masks in the trash.

I’ve had a bad habit of mouth breathing throughout my lifetime. According to a 2016 TEDx Talk by Patrick McKeown, mouth breathing leads to less attractive facial features, snoring and less restful sleep.

Although it’s far too late for me to have attractive facial features, I have been trying to kick the mouth breathing habit in recent years. When I’ve had to wear a mask for extended period in work settings, I have found the pulling on the chin to be a useful reminder to keep my mouth shut.

But that also is not the reason I’m reluctant to fling my masks in the dumpster.

I love winter sports as much as the next person, and probably more than the next person. But, ironically, I hate being cold.

The mental weakness on display when I flinch in the face of cold has always bedeviled me.

As I’ve previously mentioned in Out of the Office, a YouTube video of Canadian physiologist Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht falling into lake ice shows just what the human body is capable of producing in the face of extreme cold.

Giesbrecht jumps into the lake and gives a 15-minute tutorial on what to do if you fall through the ice.

So why does my body tense so quickly when I step out of the office in the winter and am hit by a patented blast of Kenai wind?

A friend of mine, who actually likes winter activity more than me but whose body also snaps clam-shut in the face of cold, commented early this winter how much warmer she had felt walking to her car in the grocery store parking lot.

I, too, had noticed this. It immediately made me remember a Nov. 17, 2020, article on Alasdair Tutt writes, “Facial skin temperature may have an effect on the extent on bronchoconstriction you experience during exercise in cold temperatures due to temperature sensors in the nose, cheek and forehead.”

The mask!

Many wear hats that keep foreheads warm in the winter. My guess is a mask also keeps temperature sensors on the nose and cheeks warm, keeping the body from overreacting to the cold.

Slipping on a mask is an efficient way to avoid turtling on the walk to the car and on the drive home. The mask could also be a great tool to get off to a warmer start on outdoor winter excursions, or to battle spots on the trail that are exposed to a piercing wind.

So will I throw away my masks?

As much as masks have been a painfully divisive item, my guess is the masks avoid the trash due to some advice a grouchy reporter gave me about using whatever it takes to combat the cold when I arrived in Alaska over 20 years ago.

“Being tough is something greenhorns do,” he said, “because they don’t know any better.”

More in Sports

Kenai River Brown Bears defenseman Shayne Monahan controls the puck early in the third period as 1,113 fans watch Friday, March 24, 2017, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Spectator limit at sports complex drops to 250

Brown Bears move pair of games back to May

The Kenai Central high school cheerleading team. Back row, left to right: Karley Harden, Nia Calvert, Katie Stockton, Rileigh Pace and Kyrie Medina. Middle row: Karah Huff, Melena Grieme, Calani Holmes and Maya Montague. Front row: Emmalee Roney, Kaitlyn Taylor and Kori Moore. (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Beddow of BeKaptured Photography)
Kenai cheerleaders nab Division II state title

The Kenai Central cheerleading team won the Division II March Madness state… Continue reading

Lydia Jacoby celebrates her commitment to the University of Texas in Seward recently. (Photo by Leslie Jacoby)
Seward’s Jacoby takes 2nd to Olympic champion

Seward junior Lydia Jacoby, 17, set a new personal record in finishing… Continue reading

Soldotna's Ezekiel Miller controls Kenai Central's Owen Whicker at 130 pounds Friday, April 9, 2021, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. Miller won by major decision, 11-1. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Wrestling: SoHi hosts Kenai; Nikiski hosts Seward, Homer

Kenai Peninsula wrestlers continued to compete in unscored dual meets Friday. The… Continue reading

AJ LaMonda
Oilers get ready for season with new GM

The Peninsula Oilers, after taking the summer of 2020 off due to… Continue reading

Bleached, dying elodea in Sandpiper Lake on Aug. 28, 2020. (Photo by Mark Laker/USFWS)
Refuge Notebook: Update on non-native species in refuge

While some planned projects at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge were put… Continue reading

Michael Armstrong is properly outfitted for an Arctic summer hiking trip in this photo taken in 1989 along the Wulik River in northeastern Alaska. (Photo by Charles Barnwell.)
Out of the Office: Living in Alaska is a lifetime in learning

From boots to parkas, there’s lots to figure out about surviving in the Last Frontier

Mariner Austin Cline, top, attempts a take down of Kardinal Owen Whicker, bottom, in a wrestling meet on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, in the Alice Witte Gym at Homer High School in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Area wrestlers compete in duals

Kenai Peninsula wrestlers continued to participate in unscored dual meets Tuesday. The… Continue reading

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Brandon Lajoie (arm raised) celebrates his first-period goal Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, against the Maine Nordiques at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Brown Bears cap Steel series with victory

The Kenai River Brown Bears finished 1-2 in a three-game series against… Continue reading

Most Read