What does it mean when some go unmasked, while others must wear one?

I couldn’t really hear what the waiter said when he went to the table. He was more than six feet away and he was masked. So, his part of the conversation sounded like the muffled voice of an adult out of a Charlie Brown cartoon. But having been in customer service for 30 years and having had to learn to judge situations by not only what is being said, but by what is also not being said, the inference was clear.

Two of the people at the table held up their masks to their faces, while the other two did not. Those other two did, however, manage to conjure up a stare dripping with loathing.

We aren’t out of this yet. Mask wearing and social distancing has got us to this point now. Let’s not blow it. Many people in restaurants now routinely discard their masks immediately upon sitting down, only putting them back on when they get up to leave. “I’m eating and drinking,” they say. Even when a server approaches these people make no effort whatsoever to cover their mouths/noses. If we are to understand that facemasks are to protect other people from us, what does not wearing a facemask, when someone else is forced to wear one, mean?  I’m not sure what it means to them, but I can tell you what it means to us. And it isn’t very nice.

People have found a loophole, and they are exploiting it. And nobody is doing anything about it. Years ago, I waited on a family that sat at the bar. The father ordered four glasses of red wine: one for his wife, and two for his obviously underage children. When I asked for ID, he replied, “We don’t subscribe to your American morals,” which seemed odd because he was American, and its not morals we subscribe too, but the actual law.

With age proofing there is no leeway. No customer is ever going to be right, arguing that they don’t need ID, or that they “don’t believe” underage drinking is wrong.  Do you know why? Because what they think doesn’t matter. It’s the business that will lose its license to operate if they get that wrong. Liquor licenses are significant investments, up to $100,000. But liquor licenses have no cash value if they are taken away. There’s no chance to sell it, or to trade it, it’s just gone. And gone with it is your ability to sell your main product, just like that. Which is why bars are particularly careful about checking ID’s.

Contrast that with service dogs. It is a misdemeanor to misrepresent a service dog (punishable by up to a $1000 fine) and it is a crime to have an animal in a food service facility unless it is the narrowly defined “service animal.” Yet we in the restaurant business know that many of the animals we see daily, are probably not really service animals. They bark, they pee, they eat off plates, all behaviors nullifying a service animal. But there is virtually no enforcement of those laws whatsoever. And no real consequences. It might be annoying, but if annoyance were a factor in the service industry, slushy martinis, mojitos, and hot water with lemon would have bitten the dust years ago.

Now service people are being asked to enforce facemasks. The slipperiest of slopes. A choice between the possibility of being paid (i.e. a tip), or their own health. Damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

The conversation at that half masked table eventually moved on to work, politics and finally, to children, as conversations so often do.

“I don’t want my son to date new people,” said one scowling no mask wearer. “It’s not safe,” she said. “We don’t know where she’s been or who she’s been with. And we’re in the middle of a pandemic!”

An odd sentiment coming from a person in a public place, seated with people she obviously hasn’t interacted with in some time, and not wearing a facemask.

The server arrived to clear their plates, two masks went up and two masks did not. Leaving me with these thoughts:

-It’s not just where she/he has been that is the problem. It’s where everybody that she/he hangs out with has been too. Including possibly, one non mask wearing parent at a restaurant.

-Virulent anti-maskers aren’t going to change until they are forced to change, either by actual law enforcement, by exile, or ironically, by disease.

-“Damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” is originally a Depression era saying that came about when copper miners faced a dilemma, working under unsafe conditions or not working at all.

-Delta Airlines just banned 460 people from flying on their airline for not wearing masks. I’ve always liked Delta.