I was on a bus recently in New York, returning to Manhattan after a fish dinner on an island near the Bronx docks, when three burly masked men boarded. They had angry-looking eyebrows and bazookas slung over their shoulders, and bomb-size wicker boxes bounced against their thighs. I tensed. For a moment, panicked, I tried to work out the pathetic mechanics of wedging myself behind the seat in front of me. Then I realized the bazookas were actually huge, marlin-ready fishing poles. Also, it soon became olfactorily evident that they had dead fish in those bomb-size creels.

It was at that moment that I realized something I’d noticed during the pandemic, but never quite focused on: Masked women tend to look enigmatic, intriguing, exotic. But masked men tend to look threatening. We make assumptions.

This got me thinking: As the pandemic wanes, what are some of our more interesting takeaways?

1. If everyone gains weight, no one has gained weight! We’re all exactly as hot as we had been before. It’s the Peter Paul Rubens paradox.

2. Pandemic ethics can be situational. When restaurants and other retail businesses are compelled to take body temperature to admit patrons, something odd happens: The numbers seem always to be very low, as though (I am not accusing anyone of anything here) by calibration adjustment. I never came in above 97.5 degrees, and once hit 91, a figure so Siberian it is, by medical definition, immediately life-threatening. They cheerfully let me in.

3. Some people breathe only through one ear! I figured that out because that’s where they dangle their mask.

4. We learned to appreciate old people more, within reason. Uncle Sid is still a jerk.

5. Hygiene standards become fluid, particularly regarding masks. In the beginning, you fanatically washed them before each use; by the end you were searching the floor for used ones, and sniffing, and using it so long as the stale halitosis stank was manageable. When we forgot our masks, we would resort to any available substitute, such as underpants.

6. We learned that we were very bad at hand washing before. We had the skill and standards of orangutans.

7. Coughing in public is now the equivalent of farting in public.

8. We learned to be thankful for small things; when we heard journalists report how many vaccines are “in people’s arms,” we were glad it hadn’t been developed as a suppository instead.

9. We all became movie directors, because of Zoom. We learned to angle down, slightly, to minimize the double chin phenomenon, but to stay high enough above the action that we create benign backgrounds, instead of pizza boxes, half-full cups of cold coffee, and bras. The new feng shui of home decor is that (a) the rest of your house can look like the innards of a renovation dumpster and (b) all that matters is the island of immaculate serenity within your laptop camera’s angle of view.

10. We learned how stupid handshakes were. They were a holdover from more proper and formal eras, but were awkward and kinda creepy and easily jettisoned, like the Nazi heel click.

11. It actually matters who the president is and if he believes true things.

Thanks to these people from the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook: Madelyn Rosenberg, Timothy A. Livengood, Dave Prevar, Brendan Beary, Cheryl Denney White, Daniel Helming, Robert Schechter.

Email Gene Weingarten at gene.weingarten@washpost.com. Twitter: @geneweingarten. For previous columns, visit wapo.st/weingarten.

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