In a comment replying to MikeP about my post “Preach What You Practice,” September 20, 2021, I made the point that acting rationally often involves going along with something that doesn’t make sense because the penalties are substantial.

I wrote:

Something that helps me deal with government in these situations is to think of it as a big angry bear. That helps me not moralize too much and, instead, to just remember to focus on how to survive and thrive around the big angry bear. That’s why I pay the incredibly high taxes I pay; it’s why I don’t bother fighting expensive traffic tickets for driving in ways that endangered no one; etc.

It’s not just government. I find that going along with other things that don’t make sense is often a good idea when others can impose substantial costs.

A case in point is my flight yesterday from San Francisco to Washington Dulles airport. When a friend had asked me on the phone the day before if I was looking forward to being in Washington, I said I was but I wasn’t looking forward to being on a long flight and having to wear a mask. When he found out I was flying United, he reassured me that he had flown back from Hawaii a week or two earlier and the mask rule had not been enforced, with about half of the passengers not masking.

I told him that I would do what I normally do: get on the flight with my mask beneath my nose and see if anyone said anything. She did. The flight attendant told me in no uncertain terms to put my mask over my nose. So I did.

When I was seated in an aisle seat, I told the guy beside me that I had had 2 Covid vaccine shots and that I was more comfortable with the mask below my nose, but that if he wanted me to, I would wear it over my nose. He told me he didn’t care.

So I placed it beneath my nose. But about 20 minutes into the flight, the woman across the aisle from me said, “Please wear your mask.”

What to do? I realized that she held all the cards. If I refused, she would almost certainly call the flight attendant, who, whatever her own view of enforcement, would feel compelled to enforce. They had said twice over the PA system that failure to comply could result in a prison sentence. So I kept my mask on and took it off whenever I drank, and I drank in little sips, and whenever I ate peanuts, which I did a few at a time. And I put my mask beneath my nose the two times that the woman across went to the bathroom.

I didn’t focus on my anger at her, which was only momentary. I just decided to see her as an angry bear. So I didn’t waste time thinking about revenge, thinking about nasty things to say, etc. That would have taken energy and taken away from the good feelings I was having about the trip.

Of course, there was a government component at the root of this. The airline would probably not have enforced the rule and certainly wouldn’t have able to threaten a prison sentence if President Biden had not required masks.