Phyllis Zimbler Miller – Modeling Good Behavior

Writers Modeling Behavior On and Off the Page

On July 17, 2020, The Wall Street Journal published humor columnist Jason Gay’s article “Please Wear a Mask So I Can Shut Up About Wearing Face Masks.”

The subhead was: “I’m as tired of this discussion as anyone else. So let’s mask up and make progress.”

Now why would I choose to talk about this subject in my monthly guest post for author Joylene Nowell Butler? What does this have to do with writing?

I often blog about the responsibility of writers to portray in their writing safer sex and other safe behavior (when it doesn’t hinder an important plot point).  And I believe it is equally important for writers — who should understand the impact people’s actions have on other people (that is what we write about, don’t we?) – to also model responsible behavior in real life.

There’s a concept in Judaism about not appearing to do wrong. Here’s how that concept could be applied in today’s world:

Let’s say you live where masks are mandated if you can’t social distance. You are leaving your house to take the dog for a walk and don’t plan to come near anyone else.

Picture the scenario so far?

Now you (with your dog) go off without a mask. You know you’ll cross the street if anyone else comes walking towards you on the same side of the sidewalk.

But the people who see you walking without a mask don’t know what a good citizen you plan to be. They just think 1) you’re an asshole for not wearing a mask or 2) you don’t think it is necessary – and maybe they don’t need to wear a mask either.

And that’s an example of the concept of appearing to do wrong.

To make my point using humor of how little an effort it is to wear a mask, I’m going to quote from Jason Gay’s article (boldface mine):

“But look at the new cases, friends. We’re still in this battle, and there’s something we all can do: Wear the mask.

“You’ve heard it a bajillion times, but here’s the basic idea: If you’re going to be indoors in a building that is asking you to wear a mask, wear a mask. If you’re in a crowd and not able to be socially distant, wear a mask. 

“That’s it! That’s all that’s being asked here. I’m not asking you to help me move. I’m not asking you to drive me to the airport. I don’t think I’m going to the airport until 2041.”

I do believe as writers we have a responsibility to model good behavior for others. After all, we write for others. Shouldn’t we care about others in our daily lives? And today that means wearing masks!

If you want to add in the comments below other examples that demonstrate the concept of not appearing to do wrong, please do so. We can all learn something new.


Phyllis Zimbler Miller is an author and screenwriter in Los Angeles. She can be reached through her website at

Phyllis Zimbler Miller

Screenwriter * Author

Skype: PhyllisZimblerMiller12

Member of Women in Film
Member of the Dramatists Guild
Member of Military Writers Society of America


Comments 6

  1. Yikes! That escalated quickly. I’ve been working as a server five nights a week and had countless people far too close to me. If masks afforded me a modicum of safety, I’m all for them. Having said that, now that I’m not having to work with the public in person anymore (I still do monthly events for my volunteer job, but they’re all online now!), I’ll be wearing a surgical mask for the time I need to be in public, which isn’t much. And I’m more than happy to stay far away from people; I would have preferred to do that before! I should fashion a giant hoop around myself to keep people away. Having been the mom of a preschooler during the H1N1 pandemic, plus a CNA, I’m quite excellent at overwashing my hands, lol. So that’s not an issue. I imagine every little bit helps.

  2. I don’t really know WHY OSHA hasn’t come forward and stopped the nonsense BUT I want to cover 3 things
    • N95 masks and masks with exhale ports
    • surgical masks
    • filter or cloth masks

    Okay, so upon further inspection, OSHA says some masks are okay and not okay in certain situations.
    If you’re working with fumes and aerosol chemicals and you give your employees the wrong masks and they get sick, you can be sued.

    • N95 masks: are designed for CONTAMINATED environments. That means when you exhale through N95 the design is that you are exhaling into contamination. The exhale from N95 masks are vented to breath straight out without filtration. They don’t filter the air on the way out. They don’t need to.

    Conclusion: if you’re in Target and the guy with Covid has a N95 mask, his covid breath is unfiltered being exhaled into Target (because it was designed for already contaminated environments, it’s not filtering your air on the way out).

    • Surgical Mask: these masks were designed and approved for STERILE environments. The amount of particles and contaminants in the outside and indoor environments where people are, CLOGGING these masks very, VERY quickly. The moisture from your breath combined with the clogged mask will render it “useless” IF you come in contact with Covid and your mask traps it, YOU become a walking virus dispenser. Everytime you put your mask on you are breathing the germs from EVERYWHERE you went. They should be changed or thrown out every “20-30 minutes in a non sterile environment.”

    • Cloth masks: I can’t even believe I’m having to explain this, but here it goes. Today, three people pointed to their masks as they walked by me entering Lowe’s. They said “ya gotta wear your mask BRO” I said very clearly “those masks don’t work bro, in fact they MAKE you sicker” they “pshh’d” me. By now hopefully you all know CLOTH masks do not filter anything. You mean the American flag one my aunt made? Yes. The bandanna, the cut up t-shirt, the scarf ALL of them offer NO FILTERING whatsoever. As you exhale, you are ridding your lungs of contaminants and carbon dioxide. Cloth masks trap this carbon dioxide the best. It actually risks your health, rather than protect it. The moisture caught in these masks can become mildew ridden over night. Dry coughing, enhanced allergies, sore throat are all symptoms of a micro-mold in your mask.

    -Ultimate Answer:
    *N95 blows the virus into the air from a contaminated person.
    *The surgical mask is not designed for the outside world and will not filter the virus upon inhaling through it. It’s filtration works on the exhale, (Like a vacuum bag, it only works one way) but likely stops after 20 minutes, rendering it useless outside of a STERILE ENVIRONMENT

    *Cloth masks are WORSE than none. It’s equivalent to using a chain link fence to stop mosquitos.
    The CDC wants us to keep wearing masks. The masks don’t work. They’re being used to provide false comfort and push forward a specific agenda. For the love of God, research each mask’s designed use and purpose, I bet you will find NONE are used in the way of “viral defense.”

    Just like EVERY Flu season kids, wash your hands. Sanitize your hands. Don’t touch stuff. Sanitize your phone. Don’t touch people. And keep your distance.

    Why? Because your breath stinks, your deodorant is failing, your shoes are old and stink, that shirts not clean, & I like my space. Trust me I can hear you from here. Lots of reasons to keep your distance and work on body hygiene. But trust me, the masks do not work.

    *Occupational Safety & Hazard Association sited.
    The top organization for safety.
    They regulate and educate asbestos workers, surgical rooms, you name it.

    I know, facts suck. They throw a wrench into the perfectly (seeming) packaged pill you are willingly swallowing. Facts make you have to form your OWN OPINION, instead of regurgitating someone else’s, and I know how uncomfortable that makes a lot of you.

    If your mask gives you security, by all means wear it.
    Just know it is a false sense of security and you shouldn’t shame anyone into partaking in such “conspiracies.”

    We all have a choice

    1. Post

      Just to be clear, so nobody attacks James, the above info is a FB repost from an OSHA inspector.

      Whatever is going on with the OSHA, it’s very difficult for the rest of us to know who is telling the truth. Why isn’t OSHA posting the truth? I don’t know. Meanwhile, I’m wearing a mask when I go out. I’m keeping my distance. I’m washing my hands etc..

      Am I fooling myself and following the manic race off the cliff?

      I’m trying to be as respectful and as responsible as I can. Many in my circle think wearing a mask is wrong. It’s all over the news networks that wearing a mask makes a difference. Those workers in toxic environments say it doesn’t. The OSHA inspector above says it doesn’t. Then why are we being denied access to many facilities if we don’t?

      Who is the inspector above? Why is he a lone voice? If I wear a mask, he says I’m doing you and myself harm. Experts in the viral infection science say I’m putting you at risk if I don’t. Who’s a person to believe?

      These are questions that need answers, but until they are, when I do go out, I’m keeping my distance. I’m washing my hands. I’m not touching railings or products or door handles, if I can afford them. And I’m wearing a mask for at least the time it takes to get groceries and get home.

      1. Thank you, Joylene, for your very well-reasoned response to what James posted.

        There is one benefit of wearing a mask that should be mentioned:

        It is a reminder to each of us and the people we see that the world is different and we need to take appropriate precautions (such as washing our hands and not getting into crowded elevators).

        It is so easy to believe that the world is fine that a visual reminder can be very effective at reminding us of important health steps.

        And here is the link to a very interesting article about Italy and control of the virus:

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