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I saw the most extraordinary thing.
A friend of mine owns a pizza restaurant and though on limited service – to-go food only, per the health department – is having trouble keeping his place staffed. That sounds odd right now when most of the service industry is clamoring for whatever money can be had, but waiters are paid less than three dollars an hour. That’s fine. After tips, they end up making more than just about anybody in the house if they don’t sneer a lot. Sometimes even if they do.
But now there is no table service, so now there are not as many tips to go around. As a waiter you can, if over the course of a pay period you don’t make more than the federal minimum wage once tips are included, require your employer to make you whole – up to the minimum.
He was willing to pay them the minimum despite the dire financial forecast for his business, but that was asking people who were accustomed to and budgeted for making at least twenty dollars an hour. Seven dollars and 25 cents doesn’t pay the bills. The newest employees went on to the hope of other opportunities and he was left with a core of long time folks. With the dwindling number, he was able to pay them more hourly and people have been surprisingly generous with their take-out order tips. No one is making as much as before, but muddling by is probable.
The other day the anchor of his staff, who is dear to me, lost one of her grandchildren. It wasn’t the Chinese Flu. The poor kid had been in a vegetative state since he was twelve. Earlier this week at age sixteen he passed. I used to have her job some 20 years plus ago and as I mentioned, I was friends with the owner.
I volunteered to fill in if needed. It’s not like I had anything else to do. I didn’t so much work as be there to help out as needed. Basically I watched Jeopardy, some old baseball games that were re-aired, and occasionally tested the draught beer to be sure it wasn’t going bad. Occasionally I answered the phone. Take out can be brisk, but it doesn’t require that many people to run it smoothly.
It was interesting to see how different people were reacting to contact with others.
There were exceptions: one guy was basically in a hazmat suit and another delivered a pretty tight and seemingly well-rehearsed diatribe warning that Covid 19 was caused by cell phone radiation and the governments of the world were conspiring to cover up that fact, but most of the drivers for various delivery apps were indifferent to the possibility of infection.
People who were not employed to pick up food were all over the place. Some had gloves, some mumbled about all the nonsense (few used the word nonsense), and some would go so far as to pay by phone and request that their food be left in front of the building. For the most part, I don’t judge. I don’t know how compromised someone’s immune system is so I won’t fault them for their precautions, but there was this one woman.
She came into the building. There were three others waiting for their orders and then there were the three front-of-house employees. It was obvious that she was uncomfortable being in proximity to so many people.
She helped herself to the Purell by the register and then retreated to an unoccupied area. When her pizza was ready, she gave her credit card to the cashier and then started railing about the fact that she was signing with a pen that had been touched by others. She was pretty rude.
“You are spreading this contagion!” she howled before storming out as best you can storm when the register is eight or so feet from the exit.
The pen was a breaking point.
There was a moment of “Wait…what?” after she left followed by customer and employee laughter.
We all started pointing out the obvious. She handed a credit card to another person and was thus complicit in spreading the contagion. She took back the credit card mixing the cashier’s cooties with her own. She took the pizza box knowing it had been touched by others. There was Purell she was welcome to after she touched the offending pen.
I pointed out that she might have an aneurism when she realizes how many people have touched the push/pull door pad thingamajiggy that she used to exit into the rest of the world post kinda storming.
I always thought that adults understood that writing instruments rarely come in single-use sterilized packages. Immediately after writing that sentence, I thought about the fact that to get to whatever is inside any sterilized package you have to have contact with the unsterilized outside of that package. Who touched the outside of your box of latex gloves?
There lies madness.
What I’m seeing, and I’d like people’s opinion on this, is that people have differing views of the world. I hate to be one of those “There are two types of people” people, but divides are everywhere.
I’ve always been of the opinion that the natural world was out to kill me. If you want a sense of my thoughts, to steal an analogy from Robert Conquest, this essay is just over a thousand words. Statistically, by the end of the day, per the CDC, 2,000 children will have died from contagious diarrhea worldwide. That’s two deaths for every word you have just read and that’s just today. We have contained that disease in most of the western world, but threats are out there. I feel like I’m watching more people than I expected waking up to my point of view.
So many are in complete panic. So many are exasperated. Do we quarantine or resume our lives?
There will be people who say the answer is somewhere in the middle. I’ve never ascribed to that view. If someone wants to kill me and I don’t want to be killed the compromise would be what, a light beating? No thanks. There is a right answer and sometimes it might be an extreme. I’d like to hear what people think.
But for the sake of my sanity, if you are freaking out about the possibility of getting infected, bring your own damn pen.Published in