I’m wagging a finger reminding people to wear a mask...

painting of postal workers in sorting facility
Painting by Carolyn Olson

I’m wagging a finger reminding people to wear a mask, and they’re wagging a finger back at me.

My job in the retail business is basically to stay by the front door and assist people, remind them to wear masks, tell them where the hardware section is and the auto parts places and such. 

Safety Procedures

Before I come to work, I have to go through a health screening, they basically take my temperature and I answer a few basic questions. They supply me with gloves and they supply me with a mask. And I wear gloves all day long at my job just because I handle any number of items that other people might have touched, so it’s important for me to keep protected in that way.

They recommend that we change gloves at least a couple of times a day, also the masks. When we were first introduced to the concept of gloves and masks, we were told basically a half a day for each and then get rid of them and get new ones, but I don’t do that. Basically, when I’m taking a break or if I’m having a lunch break, I take my gloves off, I turn them inside out and I shove them in my pocket because, let’s face it, they’re sweaty. But putting them in the pocket, the pocket liners absorb the moisture so that when it’s time to go back to work, I simply wash my hands and shove the gloves back right side in and put them back on. 

The break room that I go to to take my break, they pulled about one-half of all the chairs out of the room and stacked them somewhere else, so there’s a lot less chairs per table so there aren’t so many people gathering at a table. 

I’m not coming into contact with people directly, I’m not touching sweaty palms or anything like that, but I’m touching the things that they touched, so I’m also in contact with a bottle of disinfectant because part of my job is if I’m dealing with a shopping cart, I have to spray the cart down and get it disinfected. So my hands are literally coated in disinfectant all day long. I swear I’m one of the least infected people in the building, simply because I’m spraying this stuff all day. 

Reminding Others to Wear a Mask

I spend eight hours on my feet. These days, I’m wagging a finger at people reminding them to wear a mask, and they’re wagging a finger back at me. Mind you, it’s a different finger, but I wave one, they wave one. We’re good. 

When we announced that we were doing a mask ordinance — we required people to wear a mask before the city did or before the state did — my first question was, “What’s the penalty if they choose not to?” and I couldn’t get an answer. So when I told you earlier I wave a finger at people to warn them about wearing masks and they sometimes throw a finger back at me, there isn’t really much else that can be done and I find that a little disheartening. It shouldn’t be the retailer’s job to have people arrested or thrown out of the building, and yet that’s kind of what it is. You can tell people not to wear a mask, but if they walk by you and say, “Well, stuff it, kid. I’m not wearing a mask,” there isn’t a lot you can do about it and I find that disheartening.

In a typical day, 99 percent of the people I deal with are wearing masks. And if they’re not wearing masks, you say, “I’m sorry, masks are required.” “Oh, I forgot mine in the car,” and back out they go. Let’s see how that works if we’re still doing it in January, “I’m not going back out in that cold, forget it.” If they’re not wearing a mask, they say, “Can I buy a mask?” and we say, “We’ll sell you a mask for a dollar, just so as long as you know that the dollar doesn’t go into the store’s coffers.” It goes to [a charity].

So 99 percent of the people are pretty swell about it. That last 1 percent, they’ll tell you either ... they’ll say, “I have a health condition,” or they’ll say, “Forget it, kid, I’m not wearing one.” The people who have the health condition, most of them have a health condition and they’ll tell you what it is. They’ll say, “I have bronchitis.” “I have asthma.” My favorite was the guy who said, “I have high blood pressure,” and he walks by and I’m looking at him and I go, “I’m taking three pills!” Anyways. 

In the course of a day, I deal with hundreds and hundreds of people. Maybe a half dozen of them will come in and say, “I’m not wearing a mask and you can’t make me.” Usually there’s an F-bomb attached in there somewhere, but you get the idea. But like I said, the vast majority of people, they wear masks and they’re cool with it. It’s the ones that don’t, ’cause they just won’t. And aside from beating them with a hose, there just isn’t much you can do to make them do it.

I’ve been called a Nazi, I’ve been called a commie. The one guy calls me der Kommissar. It’s not like it happens all the time, but it happens enough that you remember the stuff. [...]  It gets to be a long day sometimes, and I just come home and I’m physically exhausted. So I guess in a way that COVID made my work a little more physically intense and kind of wore me out at the end of the day.

Timothy Broman




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