By far the biggest challenge in our covid trial is the mask situation. Never mind that we are in a convention center conference room. Or that the jury is spread out across the ballroom floor. This is from my trial diary – day 1.
The defense lawyer is a distraction. Or rather his facemask is. It is dark blue with a design that looks like either big diamonds or a faux Louis Vuitton print. Can’t quite decide if it is garish or neat. It is for certain bold. And has me transfixed.
For one thing, it is hanging below his nostrils. Every so often he pulls it up but just as quickly back down it goes. Every time he says something it slides farther down. Should I tell him to fix it. Should I tell him to wear a paper one – there’s a box full. What to do. Decide not to say anything. He’s far enough away from me it’s more intriguing versus worrying. During a break he complains about it. I tell him it’s too big. It’s my wife’s he says. I start laughing – how can her head be bigger than yours. He mumbles something and yanks it up. After lunch Judge P tells him she’s responsible to make sure the place is safe. Says change into a paper one. Which is a bit unfortunate because now he looks so much better.
Here are tips for trial with mask during these pandemic times.
- Find a proper mask that is comfortable, secure, and breathable. I purchased two packs of Athleta brand facemasks. Athletic masks are the best for breathability.
- Don’t wear dark or bold colors. Avoid black. My favorite color was a flesh toned mauve. Also had a pack of friendly light pink masks as back up.
- Make sure the mask is not flat across the nose – there should be a little rise and preferably a piece of metal or something else to secure it. Otherwise when you talk – and you will talk since it’s trial – it will fall down.
- The best mask has space between your mouth and the body of the mask. Masks that have seams down the middle stick out more than those that are flat against the face. A flat mask means that your lips and tongue will be tangling with the mask. You will get lint in your mouth and it will become wet and gross.
- Don’t wear N95 masks. You will look like you are stealing from healthcare workers and vulnerable populations who need them more.
- If you wear glasses, the best hack is to use a flesh colored bandaid across the bridge of the nose. This will keep the fog effect under control plus serve double duty to secure the mask.
- Practice ahead of time. Get the masks at least a week in advance and start wearing them even when you’re at home alone. Talk on the phone with them and see if people can understand you.
- Slow down your speech and enunciate more clearly than you ever have in your entire life. Masks are mumble enhancers. Try not to let them swallow your words.
- Watch yourself talk with a mask on. Do this in front of a mirror or better yet video yourself. Figure out how to better animate the visible part of your face. They may not be able to see your mouth curve into a smile. But they can see your eyes crinkle with good humor.
- Give all of this same advice to your client and witnesses. And if the court is going to force them to use a plastic mask – get a box full and hand them out for practice in advance. Warn them that plastic masks are especially nasty because condensation and spittle will decorate the inside. Plus the hard plastic will muffle the sound even worse than just fabric.
- Love your mask. If you hate it, you will be fighting with it the entire trial.