Cashiering for an essential business during the COVID-19 pandemic was a struggle on its own, but my chronic health condition made it even worse.
It wasn’t the people who genuinely forgot masks (and then put one on when I asked them to) or the people who didn’t put their masks over their noses that eventually drove me out. What shocked me out of my job was the people who essentially told me that my life is worthless during COVID-19 because I have a medical condition.
Last year, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
Though diabetes is no longer on the CDC’s list of high-risk illnesses, getting sick when you have diabetes increases your risk of life-threatening diabetic ketoacidosis. COVID-19 is unpredictable, so I didn’t want to risk potential exposure.
Still, in this economy, cashiering was the only job I could get, even though I have a degree. So I stayed.
One day, I was alone at the registers and a maskless man came to check out. I handed him a complimentary mask and asked him to put it on, but he threw it on the counter instead.
I told him I had a medical condition and that I was uncomfortable with him refusing to wear a mask. In response, he demanded that I just check him out.
At the time, I didn’t know I had the right to refuse service. The man also seemed incredibly threatening, so I obeyed.
By the time I finished checking out his items, I was near tears. I started having a panic attack, so I ran to the back of the store. Considering how angry the customer seemed, I was sure that this man didn’t wear a mask anywhere else, which increased his chances of carrying COVID-19. The stress of the incident caused my blood sugar to spike.
Right then, I vowed to never let another customer intimidate me into an uncomfortable situation again.
In the coming weeks, I refused to help multiple people. Most either caved and put on a mask or saw a manager instead.
But customers still made angry comments, and their words fascinated me.
One customer asked me, “Do you really think that it’s reasonable to ask everyone in the world to wear these just to protect people with medical conditions?” When I, without hesitation, told her “yes,” she told me that she feels bad for my sad life because I’m “living in fear.”
This unpleasant interaction enlightened me about why many people refuse to wear masks: They don’t care.
Some believe that people with medical conditions are already “damaged,” so they might as well contract COVID-19. They’ll die from something else eventually, so why not die from the Coronavirus?
This mindset is exactly why I decided to quit my job.
Many mask-deniers also say that masks don’t work. But to that I say, “So what?” Let’s say that it’s true and masks don’t help to stop the spread of this virus. There is no negative repercussion. The worst thing that has happened to you is that you’ve put cloth over your face for no reason. However, best-case-scenario, you’re saving lives. I think that’s worth the “risk.”
If you gripe about wearing a mask, ask yourself if covering your face is worth potentially protecting our most vulnerable. If your answer is no, please look inward and ask yourself why. Going mask-less isn’t just costing people their lives; it’s also costing people with medical conditions their jobs.