By Ryan Puckett

This is a picture of me from this past weekend. Yes, I’m wearing a mask at an outdoor amphitheater to see my favorite band, Phish.

I am gonna be generous and say I was joined by about 3% of the crowd in masking up. (1% would also be a fair estimate.) Let’s do some math: if Deer Creek (actually known as Ruoff Music Center these days) holds 26,000 people and only 3% are masked, that equals 780 people. Let’s say another 500 people were there to work concessions, security, etc. Pretty much zero of them were masked. So that’s 25,720 people not masked. The vaccination rate in the U.S. is around 50% and let’s just pretend that 70% of the attendees and staff are vaccinated. That leaves 7,950 people recklessly putting themselves and everyone else in danger. But really, we have approximately 25,720 people not doing the one thing beyond vaccination to stop the spread.

The selfishness is astounding. “How can I enjoy the concert in a mask?” I’ll tell you how: just do it like I did! Unfortunately, my vaccine and masking didn’t help my weakening body.

I now have tested positive for COVID and I am having symptoms such as sore throat, cough, fatigue, chills, and headache. I pray it doesn’t get worse. I am certain I picked up this virus at one of the three nights I attended with a full house each night. My other interactions since last Thursday are limited to my kids, wife, and walking into their school for 5 minutes and where everyone must be masked and they are. There was also a trip to a clinic to get blood work where I encountered one health care worker and a short trip to Target in the middle of the day where I was near nobody until checkout and there was the mighty plexiglass and a mask between both of us.

The notion that freedom from having to be careful and considerate of others is driving me mad.  Even among a group of people who love to sing “we’re all in this together” and “vibrating with love and light” it’s very clear that we’re not all together and we are actually vibrating with selfishness and pulsating with stupidity. Me included. I am ashamed and angry at myself for choosing to attend these concerts at this crazy time.

Now my kids will have to miss school. My 2nd grader’s education has been decimated across kindergarten, 1st grade, and now second grade and these are probably 3 of the 4 MOST IMPORTANT years in a child’s education. They determine so much about the rest of their lives. He will also miss the beginning of his soccer season and the tennis lessons he just started and loves. My older son will have to miss his club soccer season for at least 2 weeks as the season just started last week. He will have to miss his first game too. My wife will now have to take care of everything unless I just want to risk the whole family getting infected, which they likely will.

[DIGRESSION: There’s even more to my weekend’s story that I won’t go into here that leaves me thinking about retirement from Phish after 224 live shows over 28 years. Let’s just say I witnessed an absolute train wreck in the audience and shrapnel hit me during the derailment. I love this band and their music but I am fed up with what I have to put up with to experience them live. I am astounded with what I have to ignore or look the other way. Since Phish returned in 2009 (and Phish’s leading man Trey Anastasio got sober), I have had multiple disturbing encounters before, during, or after shows with people who are way too messed up on something.]

It is perplexing to me that we can’t get Americans to take advantage of being one of the wealthiest and most blessed nations on the planet. It’s demoralizing that we have people screaming for freedom regardless the cost to themselves or worse yet, their neighbor. I don’t think “give me liberty or give me death” meant freedom to be irresponsible and inconsiderate.

I tried to follow the golden rule and I still got burned. We are sleeping through the static, people. And it’s killing me.

Ryan Puckett is an Indianapolis-based independent communications strategist focused on sustainability, community relations, economic development, urban affairs and public health. Ryan is recovering, but still feels like hell. #GetVaccinated #WearAMask