WE are on the hunt for pyjamas. It has been three months without shopping and now, with delight, Ma Stewart has been let loose in Next.

It's disorientating: the staff are wearing visors, there is a one-way system in place and hand gel stations everywhere. I've watched changes occur slowly, over weeks, but this is the first time out the house for her, other than for medical appointments, in 12 weeks and it's all change.

My poor mum is to freshly learn the new social quadrille: the fine dance to be done to keep away from your fellow shoppers without offending them as you leap out of the way.

Conversely, there is the fear of accidentally wandering too close to someone and angering them. It's no longer a leisure pursuit, shopping, it's a challenge of stamina, skills and wit.

READ MORE: Vulnerable Scots share fears of shopping without masks as Euan's Guide launches free 'exempt' badges

It is made more difficult, and more challenging, by the fact that Ma Stewart is hearing impaired and we are both wearing masks. She lip reads and so as soon as I'm wearing a mask I can't communicate with her.

For deaf people, wearing a mask isn't just a challenge for lip readers, it's also a challenge for people who use British Sign Language. Much of the language relies on facial expressions and lip patterns. The words for "woman" and "girl" or "man" and "boy" are the same, but the lip pattern changes for each.

So here we are in Next and we can't find pyjamas for love or money. I ask a shop assistant if there are any to be had and she says there are none out on the floor but would I like her to go to the stock room for a rummage around? Marvellous. She asks what style of pyjamas I am after.

"Ooh," I say, "I'm not sure, they're for my mum and she can't hear us or lip read me with my mask on." My plan is to get my phone out and type the question but the Next lady is too quick for me.

She proceeds with a quite spectacular array of pyjama mimes. She pretends to button up buttons on a pyjama shirt; she mimes wriggling a top over her head. Long trousers are enquired about, or short.

We cover a variety of styles. Happily, she stops before "sexy".

"Is she asking me about cardigans?" says Ma Stewart. Fortunately the masks do not cover eyebrows and, as she sees mine shoot skyward, she realises her error and, finally, a smart new set of PJs is purchased.

That's customer service. It really is. And just plain old human decency and kindness.

When masks were optional, weeks ago, I wrote about how we should try not to judge people or become animated when seeing folk not wearing face coverings. At that point, it was down to personal choice and individual interpretation of the benefits or otherwise.

During the Covid-19 crisis we've been asked to weigh up of often complex information. Not everyone is pro-mask, some for decent reasons, others less valid concerns.

Masks have become a focus for coronavirus fear and judgement. There's been plenty of pointing and jeering at a range of behaviours: from young people gathering in parks to people queueing with excitement for Primark to folk driving miles to get to the beach.

All the pent up worry, all the frustration of doing the right thing while watching others break the rules - it's all funnelled into opinions on mask wearing. People pretended not to be expressing snobbery about long queues for Primark and instead feigned concern about the lack of folk with face coverings.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about face coverings in Scotland

Every day on Twitter are yet more people giving a run down of their trips outdoors and who and how many people were in masks. The charity Disability Rights UK released figures at the weekend showing nearly 60 per cent of people who are exempt from wearing a face covering fear being challenged over their bare face.

The Scottish charity Euan's Guide is providing free 'exempt' badges to try to ease fears and encourage understanding.

Scottish Government guidance says that when I'm with my mum I'm exempt from wearing a mask. I could have simply removed my mask in Next and saved the poor assistant her game of charades but I'm in the 60% of people who fear challenge. I don't feel comfortable knowing that people are judging me; I don't want to risk any confrontations; and I really don't want my mum to be embarrassed as I plead our case to whomever needs to hear it.

Wouldn't it be great if we could all channel some Big Mime Energy - instead of leaping to judgement, move to responding sympathetically and collegiately instead of making a tough situation even tougher.

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