Bill and Ted hand out masks in Huntington Beach, CA

Okay, it’s not really Bill and Ted but Chad and JT are a pretty good imitation. Who are these guys? Best I can tell they’re a kind of comedy duo who produce a podcast and some short films on Instagram. If you’re old enough to remember Bob and Doug McKenzie  (“take off, eh”) a set of fictional brothers who had a recurring skit on SCTV, Chad and JT are kind of the southern California equivalent.

Yesterday they released a video in which they wander around downtown Huntington Beach and offer to give masks to people who aren’t wearing them. Some of the reactions are, well, interesting, especially after they bring out a sign that reads “God loves masks.”

The backstory here is that Huntington Beach is a nice community in relatively conservative Orange County. Back in May there were some pretty sizeable protests aimed at re-opening the beaches which are a key to the local economy. And now that masks have become another politicized part of the pandemic, this is probably a pretty good place to find people who object to wearing them. But I think what we’re seeing in the video isn’t entirely about politics. It’s also about the location by the beach where this was filmed.

I live about a mile from where this was shot. I’ve made a few trips to Home Depot, Lowe’s and a few other places in the past couple weeks. Everyone I see is wearing masks. In fact, Home Depot has a big security guy stationed at the door who will tell people to turn around if they don’t have one. So I don’t think this clip is really representative of what’s happening in most of the city most of the time.

I think the people in the clip are probably another example of something I’ve pointed out from the very beginning of the pandemic. There seems to be some “moral licensing” going on with people who exercise or go out for their health. Remember back in March the parks in New York were crowded with people when everyone was supposed to be inside and social distancing.

Something similar was happening in San Francisco where lots of people were out jogging, walking and even rollerblading during what was supposed to be a stay-at-home order. CNN did a whole segment about it at the time.

Wherever you go, whether it’s New York, San Francisco or Huntington Beach, there is always a subset of people who feel that as long as they are outdoors and engaged in healthy activity (riding a bike, walking in the sun) they can give themselves a pass on the rules we’re supposed to be observing for everyone’s health. I really think that’s partly what’s going on here. And to be fair, people riding a bike alone on a windy beach probably aren’t much of a health threat to anyone else.

In any case, here’s another amusing clip in which Chad presents his proposal for a 2nd Independence Day to the Manhattan Beach City Council. “Why does the U.S. have so few party holidays? It doesn’t make sense.”