“No, we don’t discriminate,” I said firmly, “but we require documentation for the said health issue or we require you to sit outside or at a table to order. We can’t have you walking around the coffee shop without a mask if you do not have documentation.”
He sneered, rolled his eyes. “If I call your manager right now, will he say the same thing?” he said, smirking, as if he highly doubted that I knew what I was talking about.
“Yes,” I said without hesitating, staring right back into his patronizing gaze. I turned back to the espresso machine to finish the latte I was working on. My co-worker and I exchanged a look that said, we don’t get paid enough for this.
The man lolled off. It seemed that all he had wanted was a scene. But my stomach still churned.
The coffee shop where I work started to require our customers to wear masks when sitting inside and when ordering about a year ago. While the majority of our customers have been happy to comply with the rule, it’s amazing to me how many people still roll their eyes or make snide comments when we ask them to put on their masks. Though they comply with wearing a face-covering, a few wear their noses out, or pull up the collars of their shirts, or wear thin scarves or bandannas. Some customers wear masks into the store but pull them down and lean over the counter (into my face) to order their drinks.
Many of my fellow Texans have adopted a lax attitude towards safety precautions. This indifference, while troubling, is not explicitly aggressive. Generally, those with this mindset comply with our business’s rules. They hold their own beliefs while respecting the health and safety of others.
Their attitude differs from those who have been told, by politicians, the media, or the internet, that being required to wear a mask infringes on their rights and that Covid-19 has been blown out of proportion by liberal politicians and media. These are the people who come into the coffee shop with no intention of wearing a mask, despite our rule, and who verbally attack us when we tell them that they need a mask or that they need to wear it properly.
Abbott’s framing of the March 10 executive order has played into the polarity incited by those who view refusing to wear a mask as a political statement. While the order protects the rights of businesses to require masks, it has been largely misunderstood and misrepresented to mean that Texans will no longer have to wear masks anywhere for any reason.
While it’s all fine and dandy for the governor to trust people to “take the actions that they have already mastered” to keep themselves safe, it’s not fair that many of us in the service industry are getting paid minimum wage to be exposed not only to illness, but also to rage and violence that comes with trying to enforce a mask policy post March 10.
Being a young woman who often works with even younger women, I have felt extremely unsafe when confronting grown men about our mask policy, especially after experiencing and witnessing brutal verbal attacks.
About a week after the March 10th order went into effect, I was working a closing shift with two other young women. A man came in with a mask on but pulled it down to order. My 18-year-old coworker asked him nicely to keep his mask up. He pulled the mask down farther, and she asked him again. He went off the rails: “I am a 40-year-old man, I can scratch my nose if I want to. Give me your manager’s phone number. I don’t think he’s going to be impressed with your attitude. I was going to give a tip to you and your friends, but your attitude just lost it.” And on and on until he finally left.
While leaving the decision up to businesses and “individuals” sounds like a very Texan way to handle a global health crisis, it’s not protecting Texans.