Since this pandemic started, I've been very selective about how and when I go out into the world. I weigh my options. Do I really need cold cuts or should I just make another shelf-stable peanut butter sandwich and stay in my cocoon a bit longer? Eventually, my kitchen turns into Mother Hubbard's Cupboard and it's time to brave the food store but when I went last week, I couldn't believe what I witnessed.

To the woman without a mask who marched into the food store not only during a pandemic, but also during the pre-snow rush, this is for you. You clearly want to be heard. That was obvious by the volume you used when you screamed at the store manager who politely asked you to wear your mask before coming inside. I noticed the semi-smirk on your face as you were getting the attention you craved. You flatly denied the manager's offer to provide you with a complimentary mask in case you forgot yours. Your tone and demeanor gave me the hunch that you planned this protest before even driving to the store; taking careful time to consider how you could make the biggest spectacle possible. It was low-hanging fruit really... you knew the manager would be forced to ask you to wear a mask, teeing you up to just LET HIM HAVE IT.  You yelled at him for "taking away your rights" by upholding the store policy of mask-wearing, and you spewed vitriol about who the manager was as a person even though you don't know him. You made sure to tell him and anyone else in your vicinity that the store doesn't control your body, but you were more than happy to risk infecting ours.

I stood there and watched the manager empower you by using words like, "Ma'am" and "valued customer" but you didn't care. You wanted to fight; again, you decided that before you even got there. You knew he didn't make the rules so you whipped out every grey area excuse you could to intimidate him. Apparently, you were a "medical exception" because you don't do well breathing in your own Co2 and if he did not let you shop mask-free you would personally sue him for discrimination.

I thought at that point the manager would have at least raised his voice a little, but instead, I watched him offer to personally shop for you if you were just kind enough to share your list. He also offered to load your groceries in your car for you just to keep you and others safe. That's when you called him a "piece of garbage" and walked past him in protest knowing he would not physically stop you. Then almost on cue, the customer complaints started rolling in from other shoppers. "That woman isn't wearing a mask! You're the manager, aren't you going to do something?" I watched his head spin trying to keep everyone calm when another shopper approached him and said, "Hey you the manager? I was here last week and you were out of the cut of chicken that I wanted, so I was wondering what you were going to do for me?"

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I happen to know that this manager wakes up for work at 5 a.m. and doesn't come home most nights until 10 p.m. I know he's done this for 23 years and he's tired. I also know that he's the kind of man that when he was out of wood chips for an elderly customer's front lawn, he made it a point to ask that man for his address, he drove to another store and bought wood chips with his own money and spread them on the customer's lawn himself on his lunch break all while still wearing his name badge and work shirt. I know all of these things because that manager is my husband and you have no idea how scared he is to go to work right now.

He's not a doctor so he doesn't have PPE. He doesn't have a jumpsuit or a shield to protect himself from the 18 thousand customers who pass through his store per week or shoppers like you who refuse to wear a mask and yell in his face. He worries about keeping his employees, customers, and his family safe. I know this because he tosses and turns at night hoping he gets it right because his family depends on him. You should know his name is Tony and that he’s one of the few that still care. He cares about the way the store runs because he has pride in his work and because he wants to provide for his wife and daughters.

Of course Tony doesn't want to get sick, but what I love about him most is that he doesn't want you to get sick either. In the off chance you read this, the next time you shop instead of berating my husband just because you can, please just thank him for working 26 days straight without a day off to make sure you have plenty of toilet paper.

Sincerely,

An essential worker’s wife

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