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Please Stop Arguing With Me About Wearing a COVID-19 Mask in My Business

In 15 years of running a bed and breakfast, I haven’t quite experienced the anxiety I have in running my business as I have this year. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has turned our world upside down and businesses in the service industry have taken the brunt of it. Not only are we financially strapped due to shutdowns and limitations on capacity, but we are faced with the very real possibility that just by doing business, we are at an increased risk of potentially contracting and/or spreading COVID-19 to our guests. Our only option is to be open with some calculated risk which involves upholding strict policies including mask-wearing, social distancing and even more intense sanitation. It’s stressful and we are doing the best we can to still make this a relaxing and enjoyable experience for our guests and ourselves. 

However, since we reopened, we have had to deal with resistance to our mask requirements and frankly, I feel deflated and disrespected. The thing I love most about what I do is engaging with our guests. In the past we would sit and enjoy coffee and conversation with them for hours after breakfast. Now we not only cannot do that, we are essentially operating as though we are doctors or nurses, wearing masks at all times and limiting our interactions with guests to ensure we don’t risk their lives or our own. To say I’m living in a state of hypervigilance would be an understatement. 

This is more than my business, it’s my home. Guests come and go, but I live here. I feel like it’s a privilege to enjoy our hospitality and award-winning cuisine. At the very least I would expect those who choose to come here to uphold basic safety recommendations because they care about us and our long-term success.

A banner promoting The Mighty's new Navigating Coronavirus Together group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Want to connect with others who are managing their health during the pandemic? Join Navigating Coronavirus Together now. Click to join.

On multiple occasions, we have had guests arrive maskless and when we asked them politely to put on their mask while they engage with us, we have been met with eye-rolling, arguing and a litany of varying “facts” about COVID-19 being a hoax and grumbling about the inconvenience. 

I get it. It’s uncomfortable. Nobody enjoys wearing a mask. But I’m only asking for you to wear it when you are near me or other guests. As the innkeeper, I have to wear it both when you are present and when you are absent. I wear it to prepare your food, to clean your room and to sanitize every inch of our property because I don’t want to contaminate anything with my own breath. I wear it everywhere I go and I consciously limit where I go and what I do because my job involves caring for others. I refuse to put their lives at risk because I wanted to go listen to a band at a bar.

If we are being too cautious, fine. I’m OK with that. I’d rather be safe than sorry. But please don’t make me feel even more uncomfortable by being belligerent about it. I don’t do well with conflict. My history of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) makes me conflict-averse and shuts me down. I freeze, escape my body and go into people-pleasing mode, which conflicts with my right to protect myself and others from a global pandemic. Learning to overcome my anxiety is my job, but respecting the rules I set in place for my home and business is yours.

Next time you go to a grocery store, restaurant, hair salon or anywhere else where masks are required, please be mindful of the employees and owners at those businesses. We do not want to engage in a confrontation just to serve you. We do not wish to be patronized for following the law. And most of all, we do not want to feel like trying to earn a living is a choice between life or death. Let’s be kind to one another. This is temporary, together we will survive and then we can enjoy that coffee and chat without masks like we used to.

Photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash