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If you want to conduct an experiment in the sociology of pandemic behavior, try a quick jaunt to Las Vegas. Always a petri dish for freaks, Sin City has gotten stranger in these strange times since it continues to have a mask mandate for everyone, vaccinated or not, gathered indoors.

That’s Vegas. They’ll take your money until you’re bankrupt. They’ll bring you free booze until your liver ceases to function. You can jump in the car and drive 70 miles to a legal brothel. But if you expose a nostril, the blackjack dealer immediately summons security. 

“Mask, sir! Mask!” has replaced “Come on, seven!” as the new soundtrack in every casino I wandered into last week. Given that I don’t gamble anymore, you can only imagine how much people-watching I did to pass the time.

It was either that or go see Barry Manilow in residency at the Westgate. That ranks somewhere between a colonoscopy and an Arizona Coyotes game on my lousy pastime scale. 

These days, there are four kinds of people when it comes to mask-wearing:

“Who Me?” Guy.  Everywhere in every casino, there’s signs saying you must wear a mask. Another social cue: Literally everyone else in the building is wearing a mask. Yet “Who Me?” Guy somehow fails to pick up on this. Admonished, “Who Me?” Guy stares blankly, not unlike a house pet asked to do quantum physics.

 Then it clicks: Me. Face. Mask. “Who Me?” Guy digs deep into a pocket and, lo and behold, produces a crumpled mask, which he dons. Life as we know it resumes – until he splits a pair of tens and his fellow blackjack players maul him to death.

Okay, I made that up. But it would be a helluva spectacle.

“The Kvetcher.” Visiting from Boca, Mrs. Horowitz is as happy to wear a mask as she is to explain her compromised immune system. She has “the asthma” and rheumatoid arthritis, plus “my nephew, the doctor, doesn’t like how my blood sugar looks.” 

The mask is no fun – “it itches my face like you wouldn’t believe” – but it’s necessary, because “we do this trip three times a year, and that I could not miss.” But: “Oh, this inflation. I remember when a shrimp cocktail was 99 cents and those shrimp were as big as your fist.” 

Now? “Meh! And they water down the cocktail sauce.”

“The Outlaw Josie Whines.” Mask, schmask. They don’t wear masks back home. Masks are for wussies. The outlaw has done his research too, and he knows “this whole COVID thing is bull****!” He’ll wear a mask if they make him do it, but not until he lets everyone within 30 feet know it’s under protest. 

Masks are “because Biden, because Fauci, because the drug companies, because the liberals, because our Founding Fathers, because Let’s Go Brandon, because freedom...”

Because go lick a doorknob, genius.

Opposed on the political spectrum – yet equally annoying – is “The Virtuous One.” She hails from LA. Three things in life she will not do without: A Louis Vuitton bag large enough to conceal a body. Her Gucci mask. And her Resting Pelosi Face – the one that proclaims she is silently judging exactly how superior she is to you.

 “The Virtuous One” wears her mask everywhere: In the casino, outside in the valet line, in her Prius driving alone, in the shower, and tonight …

In the front row at Barry Manilow. 

Certain things in life I will never understand, including why people pay to listen to Manilow sing “Mandy,” the rules to Pai Gow Poker, and why a thin strip of cloth can make grown adults behave like children.