Unmasking the Virus: A Retail Diary of the Plague Years (Volume 1)

June 16, 2020

A friend recently told me I should keep a public diary of my experiences as a retail worker during these historic times.

“For posterity,” he said.

“For posterior?” I asked.

“Never mind,” he said.

But his words stuck with me. I imagined my diary one day being read in a Ken Burns documentary by a montone middle-age man, while banjo music quietly played in the background.

“Gadzooks, I’ll do it!” I said.

“Shut up! I’m trying to sleep!” my wife said.

“Gadzooks, I’ll do it,” I whispered.

So here goes…

June 10, 2020

Dear Ken Burns,

You have not asked for my story, but I shall tell it to you anyway. It is a story of love and loss, of challenges and hardships, of masks and hand sanitizer. It is a story of retail.

It all started when some people with large guns and bad haircuts began protesting on the internet for my rights. I didn’t ask them to do it, but they were adamant. They marched up and down in front of various civic buildings with signs that said the government should not be allowed to prevent me from serving them.

“That’s okay,” I told them. “I’m good staying at home and not contracting a deadly virus.”

“No!” they cried. “You have the right to put your life on the line for our convenience!”

The governor agreed, and the state of Texas was opened back up for commerce and death.

I work at a company that sells used media. Before the plague, people brought in boxes of books, CDs, DVDs, VHS, LPs, cassettes, magazines, eight tracks, laser discs, video games, gaming consoles, tarot cards, trading cards, photo albums, record players, puzzles, board games, comic books, and posters. My fellow coworkers and I would take these items out of the boxes, assess their value, offer money to the customer, and they would inevitably say, “For all this stuff?”

After explaining that we were a business that had to make money and their John Grisham novels simply were not in high demand, we would price the items we had just purchased and put them on the shelves for others to purchase.

As retail jobs go, it is more bareable than most. Also, you get first pick of the John Grisham novels.

As you can imagine, this type of business attracts a certain type of customer. The word “nerd” comes to mind, as well as the words “eccentric,” “hoarder,” “cheapskate,” and “what’s that smell?”

When COVID-19 hit, every used item became a potential biological weapon, and we had to change our policies in order to prevent employees and customers from, you know, dying.

Masks. We require them. It’s like that orgy mansion in Eyes Wide Shut except the participants are (normally) clothed and not as attractive.

There’s a message on our website that says you have to wear a mask in the store. There is a sign out front that says you have to wear a mask in the store. There are several signs on the door that say you have to wear a mask in the store. And yet at least twenty times a day, someone walks in without a mask and is shocked (SHOCKED, I TELL YOU) to hear about this policy for the first time.

“But other stores in town don’t require me to wear a mask.”

“Yes, but we do.”

“But it violates my constitutional rights.”

“No, it doesn’t. We’re a private business. We also require you to wear pants.”

“But I don’t have a mask.”

“In that case, you can tell us what you want, and we will bring it out to you.”

“But I want to get it myself.”

“In that case, you need to wear a mask.”

“But I don’t like how it feels, and it fogs up my glasses.”

“Yeah, I have to wear one for eight hours a day. You can handle it for twenty minutes.”

“But other stores in town don’t require me to wear a mask.”

And on and on…

Most people do wear the masks. Some people even thank us for requiring everyone to wear masks. We like those people the best. Others threaten to burn our store down. We don’t like those people as much. This happened to my coworker the other day. She told a man he had to wear a mask, and he countered with, “Maybe I’ll set this place on fire.” We did not like his counteroffer and told him to leave.

Another man called my supervisor something that rhymes with “trucking hitch.” We told him to leave. Another man came in the store with a mask on, took it off when no one was looking, and when he was told to please put his mask on, he threw an armful of books on the floor. We told him to leave. And, finally, my favorite: when a middle-age woman was told she had to wear a mask, she gave the Nazi “Sieg Heil!” salute and stormed out of the store. We told her not to come back.

There is more, but I am fatigued. These are difficult times and I must gather my energy in preparation for more arguments about masks. Our spirits and hand sanitizer are low. I will post again at a later date.

Unwillingly Yours,

Dale Bridges

2 Responses to “Unmasking the Virus: A Retail Diary of the Plague Years (Volume 1)”

  1. Jenna Sather Says:

    Hi Dale –

    I am so sorry you’re having to deal with this nightmare! But thank you for writing these – I love your posts and read every word. Please keep writing and sharing!

    I hope you and yours stay safe & well!

    Sincerely, Jenna

    ******************** Jenna Zine jennazine.com

    Writer, film critic at movieboozer.com, unashamed Bachelor franchise live-tweeter & recapper!

    Twitter: JennaZine1 Instagram x 2: JennaZine & background_peeps ********************


    • Dale Bridges Says:

      Aw, thank you. Those are very kind words. and as I’m sure you know, just the kind of encouragement a poor unknown writer needs to keep going.

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