Telluride, I miss you. But I know you are still here, just in hiding. Hiding under the masked faces of locals, visitors, and our most precious and vibrant citizens, our children. I miss the anticipation and excitement I used to feel opening up the doors to the Toggery in the early morning, rolling down the awnings, and waiting to smile and be greeted by my first customer of the day. I looked forward to starting up a conversation with a local or getting to know a family visiting Telluride for the first time. Now I am expected to do that with a piece of fabric over my nose and mouth. It's uncomfortable, and it takes the joy out of those human interactions. I long for that feeling of true freedom, running across the street to the hardware store to grab something real quick or spontaneously ordering a cup of coffee in a local coffee shop without having to dig into my pocket hoping to find a mask so I am allowed entry. Admittedly, I have broken the rules. I tried going mask-free at work in September and made it 13 days before receiving an email from the county threatening a $5,000 fine or closure of my business if I didn’t comply. Although it was much easier to talk and breath during my days of non-compliance, the psychological burden of my impending penalty almost made it not worth it.

As a community that I believe cares deeply about our citizens we need to acknowledge that in the name of “keeping people safe” we are also banishing some from their only means of social interaction. Although it is not the majority, I personally know of longtime locals that just won’t wear a mask. These are not bad people; they are our community members and they have contributed immensely to the diversity that makes Telluride’s heart beat. There are even people, like myself, that run off to Montrose, or any of the surrounding counties, to enjoy grocery shopping, going to a movie with their children or doing errands mask-free. If we can choose there, then why can’t we choose here?

On Noel Night at The Toggery we had our usual spread of local appetizers. Life felt almost normal that night until someone asked, “They let you have food?” This stopped me in my tracks. This is what I’m worried about the most. This is Telluride losing its grip on our independence and freedom to choose what feels right to us as individuals by using common sense or abandoning all common sense! I knew on Noel Night that people wary of crowds or sharing food would stay away from the historically busy shopping day. On the other hand, I knew that customers who wanted to patronize the packed shops and enjoy the complimentary food would. That is OK. That is their choice.

In closing, I am asking our county commissioners to please drop the indoor mask mandate. It is time to give choice back to the people. It is time to see each other, really see each other, if we chose to be seen. It is time to make our own health decisions, while respecting those around us that have made a different choice.

I look forward to meeting you again, Telluride, wrapping my arms around you and never letting go.

Wendy Basham

Telluride Toggery owner