Your friendly neighborhood service workers need you to wear a mask



Gillian Stawiszynski


A week ago at my part time job as a hostess, a woman walked in looking for a table for lunch. She walked in with a smile that scared the life out of me. My co-worker quickly handed her a mask asking if she could put one on. “I actually can’t wear a mask,” said the patron, as she wrapped each string behind her ears and stopped the mask right below her nose. 


Unfortunately, we couldn’t offer her a table – we were completely booked up for lunch aside from the tables on the sidewalk. She scoffed and asked us why she had to put on a mask if she couldn’t even eat inside. She ripped her mask off and somehow, her expression was even more menacing. 


This is when the smoke began to burst out of her ears. I could have sworn I saw red in her eyes as well as she grumbled “You kids need to wake up!” with a vengeance. My manager walked into the lobby and stopped at the door, looking just as frazzled as my coworker and I still were. She began to walk out before the aura of a broken lightbulb appeared over her head, and said, “So now I just have this mask, to contaminate and do whatever I want with?” 


She stormed out of the restaurant lobby and my coworker swiftly replied “that’s your prerogative, ma’am.” This was a bad idea – as the woman shouted six times in a row, “This is ridiculous!” She did not stop when she had gotten to the sidewalk either, continuing to make a scene as she spit her exasperating words into the air. 


I do not know this woman from a hole in the wall, and even after her memorable fit of anger, I could probably never recognize her maskless face among any sea of people. However, she seems to be quite outraged that people take this pandemic seriously. I could throw out a wild guess that she believes COVID-19 is overhyped and that everyone that is trying to be safe is indoctrinated by what she believes is just a conspiracy. 


I’ve met quite a few people that scoff at me whenever I politely ask them to wear a mask. I must communicate with them to make money for rent and bills, there is no choice. Sometimes, they complain to my manager, probably imagining a dream world where I walk out in defeat and despair, having lost my job, as they maniacally laugh in defeat. 


These types of people likely wouldn’t care if I had told them that two of my roommates, including my co-worker have mild-to-severe asthma. They do not know or care that I have not seen my family in over six months, or that my boyfriend’s grandfather is in critical care having tested positive for COVID-19. They do not know or care, because their rights as Americans are supposedly underhyped in the midst of a murderous pandemic, because they are being asked to wear a mask on their face.


I am not the only one who has to experience these kinds of people, by any stretch of the imagination. There have already been hundreds of videos posted on the internet from service workers recording their experiences first hand of customers harassing them, while maskless. I also hear stories of people who refuse to mask up from my friends on a daily basis. Those of us who cannot work online are already forced to place income over health. Our safety shouldn’t be threatened even further.


If I could say anything to this woman, though, it would be exactly what I stated above, and how this pandemic has personally affected me and people I know and love. Seeing protests fighting mask mandates signifies that people think COVID-19 is overhyped. I think that the mask debate is overhyped. Please, wear your mask, or stay home. None of our lives are promised, and not wearing a mask can prove that. 


I find it important to note that there have been people who are caring, though they still go out. Some folks keep their masks up until I leave their table, and I see them put a mask over their mouth when a server comes along. To people who are trying to be as safe as possible and still go out with their masks ready – save money, go out a lot less. Learn to prepare meals and drinks you enjoy. You can also just order food for pick up of delivery. We all have safer options when it comes to food. After the pandemic, the world will likely still be here.