It’s funny how a global pandemic can change your sense of style (and I speak as a trend-setter and leader of fashion — it says so in the preface to my books, so it must be true).

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world, so I’ve seen people wearing facemasks in places like Korea and Japan, although I was never sure whether the people wearing the masks were healthy and didn’t want to get sick or were sick and didn’t want to infect anyone else. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t envisage myself strolling around sporting such an item.

I can only imagine the looks I would have received at the beginning of 2020 if I had worn a facemask to the local supermarket or when visiting my bank. And then came COVID-19.

The BioVYZR helmet (Click image to see a larger version — Image source: VYZR Technologies Inc.)

These days, of course, I wouldn’t be seen outside my house without a facemask, not the least that doing so is currently against the law where I live. I don’t wear my mask in the comfort of my office, but – like everyone else in the building — I pop one on if I need to stroll around the corner to the mail area or wander down the corridor to the little shared kitchen.

Like most people, I was caught short by the mask shortage (no pun intended). At the beginning of the year, I could have ordered hundreds of the little rascals from Amazon, along with a cornucopia of toilet rolls, kitchen towels, and disinfectant wipes. Who would have imagined that all of these items would so quickly become impossible to obtain? Happily, things are a little better now, although disinfectant wipes remain in short supply.

A few days ago, I was meandering my way around my local Home Depot when I ran into an old friend. After I’d picked him up, I complemented him on his mega-mask, which was a full-up painter’s respirator affair with replaceable filters and suchlike. I must admit to being a tad envious (would this be classed as “mask envy”?).

Mayhap I read too many apocalyptic novels (see also Empty World). The thing is that I have a lurking fear that COVID-19 will mutate into something worse, or that it’s only a taste of things to come and that some other virus is skulking out there waiting to leap onto the center stage.

Call me a worrywart if you will, but as soon as I returned home, I had a quick Google while no one was looking, after which I purchased three EROCK Reusable Respirator 6200s from Amazon for myself, my wife (Gina the Gorgeous) and my son (Joseph the Commonsense Challenged).

My mother turned 90 a little less than two weeks ago as I pen these words. My brother and I were planning on having a big party for her. Of course, the party had to be cancelled, as did my trip to England. Even if I had managed to fly there, I would have been obliged to self-quarantine at my brother’s house for 14 days, and the same again when I returned to the USA. The only difference from my mother’s point of view is that I would have been using FaceTime from just down the road as opposed to 3,000 miles away.

I’m hoping it be able to visit her next year. I must admit, however, that I’m now loath to spend a day in an airplane in close proximity to a bunch of strangers. So, I was rather interested to hear about a rather spiffy hazmat helmet from a Toronto-based company called VYZR Technologies that specializes in personal protective gear. Before we proceed, take a peek at this video on YouTube.

The BioVYZR hazmat helmet is a consumer-grade Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) that filters your air and shields your personal space. Weighing in at less than three pounds, this futuristic looking helmet is equipped with antifogging screens and a hospital-grade air-purifying device. Although it’s not cheap at $250, the guys and gals at VYZR Technologies have already raised more than $500,000 on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo.

This bodacious beauty’s lithium-ion batteries are claimed to last up to 12 hours on a single charge, which would keep them within TSA guidelines, and which would see me all the way from my home in America to my brother’s house in England. Having said this, the court is still out as to how the TSA and the airlines would react to someone wearing one of these, but the folks at VYZR Technologies say they are already working on versions with different patterns and sizes.

On the one hand, $250 is a lot of money. Also, even with COVID-19 spiking again, I think a BioVYZR would receive a few raised eyebrows at my local supermarket. On the other hand, based on past experience with regular masks, this might be a good time to get a BioVYZR “while the getting is good,” as they say.

At the present time, I can’t imagine being comfortable flying without something like the BioVYZR in the foreseeable future, and I will be very interested to see the next-generation versions of this little rascal.

And at the back of my mind I have the niggling thought: “What if ‘the big one’ comes?” It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that, a few years down the road, some new global pandemic will appear with a virus that has the communicability of measles and the lethality of Ebola. Should that sad day come to pass, I think it’s safe to say that no one would be laughing when they saw someone wearing something like a BioVYZR (the real danger would be being mugged for your hazmat helmet).

What say you? Am I worrying unduly, or should I immediately place an order for three BioVYZRs for my family before the rush starts?