DISREGUARDIAN: The Confessions of an “Essential” Worker

Editor’s note: The following is a satirical article for The DisreGuardian, which are a series of articles published annually for The Guardian’s April Fool’s issue. Opinion will resume publishing normal content next week.

Just like the millions of other college students that are currently paying full tuition for an online education, I have a part-time job. I work as a barista at a coffee shop, and it’s no secret that this past year has been an interesting one for customer service workers like myself. Many of us have had the pleasure of meeting many creative anti-maskers, who always seem to find a new way around mask mandates. They keep us on our toes and I am so thankful for all that society has done for customer service workers during these times. 

I cannot begin expressing my gratitude without first recognizing the good ol’ US government for deeming that coffee is an absolute necessity — a beverage worth risking your life for — and certainly not something that could be easily made at home. Classifying coffee shops as essential businesses was a no brainer! 

Now, I’d like to direct my attention back to the kind customers that care so deeply for us workers. Don’t get me wrong, there are some less thoughtful people who simply wear a mask and mind their own business when in a store, failing to go that extra step to show that they care. But hey, that’s life. The few that do go that extra mile to show their concern for us workers make it all worth it. 

There are a few different methods that they use to express this concern, the top three being the “Peek-a-Boo”: in which a customer leaves their nose peeking out from under their mask, the “Slippery Slope”: in which they let their loose mask fall as they speak, and my personal favorite, the “Full Send”: in which they walk into a store proudly and confidently without a mask. 

The “Peek-a-Boo” is great because it really helps us train our eyes to focus on the small details. In a packed store during a rush, for example, keeping track of customers wearing masks is simple enough. But further analyzing those wearing masks to make sure that their masks actually cover the parts of the face that they’re meant to, well that takes a trained eye. It’s almost like a real-life Where’s Waldo puzzle, how fun!  

Now for the “Slippery Slope,” which helps us to think on our feet. You never know when a customer is going to let their mask fall, so it’s not something that’s easy to prepare for. Each customer you interact with could be the mask slider, it’s just a gamble. Not only does this add a little spice to our otherwise bland and easy jobs, but it forces us to address the situation head-on. For example, if the customer is in the middle of speaking when their mask falls, we must find the perfect moment to slip in a “Sir/Ma’am, do you mind pulling your mask up?”  

And finally, the “Full Send” is a great way for customers to check our vocal chords are working properly. Despite the “Masks Required” sign that graces the entryway of most stores and cafes in California, some customers are still kind enough to walk in without one. As customer service workers, this not only tests our vocal chords when we have to yell across the store to ask them to put a mask on, but it also tests our patience! 

More hostile customers have also given us the opportunity to get comfortable with confrontation! What to do when a customer is yelling at you for government-mandated regulations that are out of your control? I can handle that! What about when a customer pulls down their mask to speak to you? No problem at all. I feel better equipped for any challenge life throws at me in the future. 

I truly admire the impartiality that so many people have had toward essential workers as well. Yeah, we wake up early and risk our lives in order to serve our communities and provide stability during these unprecedented times, but that doesn’t mean we should be treated differently. By all means, treat us how you normally would. If you’re usually a little snappy in the morning, or have some pent up rage that you just haven’t let out yet, we’ve got your back! Let us be your emotional punching bag, it keeps us humble. 

At the end of the day, us customer service workers have had some amazingly thoughtful customers who have been devoted to our welfare and entertainment this past year. But please remember that there is no expectation for all customers to be this kind. If you walk into a store with a properly fitted mask, and mind your own business during your trip, I promise you that the customer service workers will not hate you. 

Art by Andrew Diep for the UC San Diego Guardian.

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