Mar 8, 2021

Double-Masking—and Other Good and Bad Double Things

“Double your pleasure/Doubly immune….” 

By Ed Goldman

The suggestion by health officials last month that wearing either two masks or one stretched very taut—in essence, oral Spandex—caused a ripple of annoyance in some quarters. For me, though, it took me back to the days when a man could buy a suit that came with two pair of pants.

These were obviously not suits for executives (who, ironically, are often called “suits”). Executives could wear fresh, complete suits every day. The two-pair-of-pants come-on was targeted to middle managers, clerks and in-house salespeople, for whom wearing a suit was a requirement. But since these folks often took off their jackets once at the office, it was only their slacks that absorbed the everyday wear-and-tear of constant rumpling from their wearers’ jumping in and out of their chairs when summoned by the boss or to print jokes at the Xerox machine for ex officio distribution. In those days, a guy with access to a Xerox machine had tremendous power.

Edgy Cartoon

“Another mask, Kemo Sabe?”

Why it was even a requirement for these people to wear suits was anybody’s guess. Most of the employees working at that tier had little to zero contact with the public. Today, their employee descendants—software programmers, for example—wear jeans, sandals, shorts, sweatshirts, tees, whatever. They dress like they’d been given 45 seconds to do a mix-and-match run through a rummage sale or a Goodwill collections truck that had jackknifed on the interstate and spewed its contents down a mountain. (This explains why some of the faux-military blouses have little bits of tumbleweed protruding through the epaulets.)

I’m sure that if Dr. Anthony Fauci favors double masks, there may be something to it—though when I first heard it, I’ll admit it sounded like one of those advertising gimmicks that make two of anything sound like they’re worth nine times more than one. 

What are some good double things?

– Double Stuf Oreos. These are guaranteed to shorten the waiting time for your first myocardial infarction, often while playing Extreme Frisbee.

– Wrigley’s Doublemint Gum—and, of course, those cute Doublemint Twins from the old commercials, in their not-all-that-wholesome minty-fresh bikinis. From the sometimes-correct Wikipedia: “The original ‘Doublemint Twins’ were 21-year-old Jayne and Joan Knoerzer …of Hammond, Indiana, who appeared in advertisements for Doublemint until 1963 when Joan became pregnant.” Chew on that, friends.

– Double dates in high school when you needed someone old enough to drive the parents’ car.

– “Double Indemnity,” the greatest film noir ever made. Fred MacMurray played the corrupt insurance salesman so well I never bought him as lovable architect and TV dad Steve Douglas years later on “My Three Sons.” I always thought if his design firm failed and he needed extra dough he’d toss Chip or Ernie from a slow-moving train—and that Barbara Stanwyck, his co-star in “Double Indemnity,” would time-travel from her own series, “The Big Valley,” to abet him.

– Double-decker cheeseburgers and British buses (now just imagine if you could eat a double-decker cheeseburger while on a double-decker British bus. Would that be Nirvana, or what?)

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What are some bad double things?

– Evil Twins. Most people refer to the desperate “refreshing” of a long-running television series as “jumping the shark,” an allusion to an episode in the fifth-season premiere of the ABC sitcom “Happy Days” in which Henry Winkler as The Fonz, though more likely his stuntman, waterski-jumped over, yes, a shark. 

Apparently, the tonal change worked for what had been, by and large, a realistic comedy. The series lasted for several more years.

To me, having an episode where it’s revealed that the star’s character has an evil twin is the real sign of a show in trouble. The twin need not be related. It’s just one of those co-inky-dinkies that there are two guys in the world who look exactly like the show’s protagonist, David Hasselhoff. Sometimes the producers will give the evil twin an apparently sinister mustache and raspier voice than our hero. I remember when Jay Leno commented on that episode and said he could tell the guy was Hasselhoff’s evil twin because “he couldn’t act, either.”

– Double-down Bets while playing BlackJack—which, like Double Stuf Oreos, tend to speed up the pace of your self-destruction.

Other bad “double” things include double-dealing, double-crossing and one of my own former infirmities, double vision. Some people think when they hear that term it allows the person with double vision to view two of a good thing, like a lovely romantic partner or glass of their preferred alcoholic beverage (the latter could be a money-saver every time they said, “And make it a double”).

Okay, so double-masking it is. And if anyone questions it, I’ll just say, “I’m masking for a friend.” That will be easier to explain than why I’m wearing two pair of pants.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).