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I often tell my kids, perhaps more frequently since we've all been on lockdown together, "Be as good as you can be, not as bad as you can get away with." The scolding feels different looking out into our community during shelter in place.

But before I get to what some are getting away with, I want to take a second to thank folks who are doing their best. We'll remember those businesses that worked hard to follow the rules of social distancing to keep employees and customers safe. And we'll remember the patrons who showed up in masks and maintained their distance. We should keep in mind those darkened storefronts, too: the business owners who decided they couldn't operate safely, as well as those who closed to follow the letter and spirit of the shelter-in-place order. Those owners and employees are making a sacrifice we'd do well to remember when the county re-opens and we enjoy broad choices of where to spend our money.

Of course, we've all seen or heard from friends and family about people who don't seem to be trying at all, ignoring social distancing and masking, the very things designed to protect the rest of us from them should they have the virus and not know it.

Our sheriff and public health officer have tried to be clear and calm leaders in this, speaking to adults in the language of adults. But it's clearly not getting through to everyone. So I'll use my mom voice: Wear the damn mask.

Many of the people behind the counter are worried. They're worried about their jobs, their safety and you. Service workers are getting hit hard in this pandemic. If anything, we should be more careful around the people risking exposure by doing jobs that feed and sustain us.

What do you think working in a restaurant is like? Or a market? Or a hardware store? You think it's easy standing all day and dealing with customers? Because I've done these jobs and let me tell you it's hard work — usually without decent, if any, insurance — and they deserve to be treated with respect. And being a customer doesn't give you the right to roll up to the conveyer belt with no mask or breathing over one pulled down below your chin like your breath is doesn't have germs. People must wonder how you were raised.

The least you can do for somebody who's on the eighth hour of a shift breathing into a steamy mask over a register or a grill and waiting on you is to wear the damn mask and stay 6 feet the hell back. And don't you dare make a fuss about it. Because the rest of us are doing it and you're not special.

I don't know what you're smiling at, Business Flouting the Shelter in Place Order. You're on my list, too.

What do you, maskless wonder, think giving attitude about slowing the spread of a deadly disease is going to get you? Play it through. You think you're going to impress your friends with this? Because you're such a big deal, pushing up on staff with no mask and no manners, disregarding their safety and putting them in the difficult position of tossing you out. You think everybody is going to cheer your brave stand? People are out there getting killed in the streets for the color of their skin; people are homeless and starving; hell, just today, hundreds of people died alone connected to ventilators of a disease whose spread can be limited by a simple mask — but this, this is your moment to protest?

And if you think the same people who can remember you wanted your burger rare with ranch on the side aren't going to remember your unmasked face, you are out of your damn mind. No tip is going to fix that. You'd better believe we're all going to remember who caused a pointless and frankly scary — potentially deadly, even — ruckus at the store. Everybody with health issues and loved ones with health issues is going to remember your foolishness.

Do you want to escalate and turn this into a police matter? Because that is how this becomes a police matter.

I'd be embarrassed for you if the stakes weren't deadly high. Wear your damn mask.

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor at the Journal and prefers she/her. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.

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About The Author

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor of the North Coast Journal. She won the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s 2020 Best Food Writing Award and the 2019 California News Publisher's Association award for Best Writing.

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