It's never too early to start thinking about Halloween, but I'm talking about facemasks worn to protect oneself against the swine flu. I took a plane trip this past weekend and saw a few people wearing masks, including the guy sitting next to me on the return trip. He also wore bright orange corduroy pants and an Indiana Jones hat. I think many people wearing masks are doing it as a fashion statement-- "Look at me."

My brother told me he saw someone wearing a mask who pulled it aside to sneeze and then put it back in place.

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I've worn a mask in the

I've worn a mask in the subway at the beginning of the epidemic in New York. Since the number of cases is stalling, I've stopped doing it.

Par of it was genuine concern, part of it probably was signalling.
" Look, I'm so individualistic and rational that I don't weigh in the weird looks when I decide to wear a mask."

One upside is that it magically created room around me at rush hour.

The Inscrutable Japanese

I recently spent a week in Japan where quite a few people wore such masks. I was led to understand that people wore these masks when they feel sick, not to avoid getting sick. But if it was designed to attract attention, I don't know that it worked; it was a pretty common practice.

Sure enough, I caught a cold and so took up the mask-wearing habit. Now I feel downright trendy!