Why you should care

Because someday we may all have to wear these things. 

The author is former restaurant critic for The New York Times and was for many years an editor at The Wall Street Journal. His latest book is Steal the Menu: A Memoir of Forty Years in Food.

We hope you’re pleased with your Respro® product. We’re really keen to know what you think — your feedback is invaluable when we’re developing new products. Be honest, tell us about any little niggles you have (we can take it) or, if you’re completely happy, simply lavish us with praise (we’ll happily take that, too).

Dear Respro©:

I don’t usually respond to requests for “reviews” of products I’ve just bought, but I really do like my new Respro© Cinqpro™ sports face mask. It is both dashing (red swooshes on both sides) and appealingly scary (Darth Vaderish black face covering). And as far as I can tell, its HEPA-TYPE “sports performance filtration” has done a dandy job of protecting me from diesel smoke, pollen and other fine respirable dusts, as promised. Frankly, the Respro© Cinqpro™ has surpassed my needs as someone who “trains in urban or country landscapes where air quality is an issue.”

As a sedentary septuagenarian retiree, my exercise routine (brief saunters down the driveway to fetch morning paper, long stints on riding mower, nocturnal thrashing in bed and frequent round trips to the commode) do not really require the Respro© Cinqpro™ sports face mask’s twin POWA ELITE™ valves that “allow air to be exhaled rapidly at elevated breathing rates.” Call it overkill if you must, but those POWA valves definitely do keep the mask from interfering with the quick, stertorous puffs of CO2 that follow hoarse intakes of air (masterfully filtered by the HEPA-TYPE insert) induced by one-step-at-a-time stair climbs with both hands on banisters.

They all looked up from their glasses and broke out into loud guffaws. But I wore the mask until my beer arrived.

I am also “completely happy,” as you put it in your email, with the fit of my extra-large Respro© Cinqpro™ sports face mask. Given my improbably large head and 17½-inch neck, this size choice was obvious, but I was glad to have confirmation from Mairead McClean of Team Respro® Customer Services. Even if my size had been XS, the Respro© Cinqpro™ sports face mask would serve as a protection against harm in urban or country landscapes. Fit urban youths lounging along my path routinely adopt a non-menacing demeanor when they see me doddering along with my mask on.

Others are less intimidated. Just the other day, I walked into a neighborhood tavern with my mask still attached, with the cunning nose-bridge bar tightly pinched and providing both a secure fit and a tight seal against the intrusion of fine respirable dusts. I hadn’t remembered to take off the mask, because it is so light you often forget you are wearing it. Well, you can imagine the reception I got from the regulars that morning. Not to put too fine a point on it, but they all looked up from their glasses and broke out into loud guffaws. But I wore the mask until my beer arrived. You can’t drink with it on your face, a fact I hope you will not take as a niggle.

Nor do I intend to niggle when I say that it took me a while to manage to swap the included Dynamic Activated Charcoal Cloth (DACC™) filter cloth for the HEPA cloth installed inside the Respro© Cinqpro™ and then to reattach the twin POWA ELITE™ exhalation valves. But it was worth the struggle. This material (DACC™), according to Respro Ltd. (U.K.) was “first produced by the U.K. Defence Establishment back in 1980s for the protection of troops under the threat of nuclear chemical and biological warfare.” I attempted to explain this to my tavern pals, but they wouldn’t stop laughing. All of them, that is, except one, a newcomer who appeared to me as if in a dream and introduced herself as Nuala. It was hard to understand her, because she was wearing Respro©’s vestal all-white EV™ P3 mask with the green nose-bridge clip, the equivalent of a U.S. N99 mask, capable of removing 99 percent of airborne particulates, including bird flu and some other viral materials. We exchanged phone numbers.

Who knows what the future of this pollutant-free relationship may be. Will we have the courage to take our masks off? That will be the test. It is impossible to kiss while wearing either the Respro© Cinqpro™ or the EV™ P3.

*Respro Ltd. declined to comment.

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