We were at the tube park last Friday when Henry had to pee because, after all, it’s some universal law that when your toddler is wearing three layers of clothing and bib-style snow pants they have to use the bathroom. I stifled a sigh. One of my least favourite parts of Covid is taking my child into a public washroom; the whole time I feel like I must be hyper-vigilant against germs, continually reiterating the importance of cleanliness and saying, “don’t touch that!” what feels like five million times. Then there’s the struggle to boost him up to the sink so he can reach the soap and the tap because there’s rarely a step stool, and the whole process makes me hot and grouchy as a result of my mask holding the warm air of my repeated warnings against my skin.
Resigned to my fate, we left Auntie Torey to watch over the tubes, ventured inside the chalet in search of the washrooms, and were greeted with signage asking people to sanitize their hands, along with a small table, on which sat a giant jug of hand sanitizer. It was a sight that I would’ve found bizarre a year ago, but that now seemed completely normal – a routine inconvenience and nothing more. I peeled off Henry’s mitts, removed my own gloves, and used the pump to squirt a glob of sanitizer onto my palm, transferring a smaller amount to Henry’s open hand as has become our custom when entering a public place. To my surprise, the women clearing tables completely stopped what she was doing, tray frozen mid-air, and looked at us.
“Thank you,” she said, a smile lighting up her tired eyes (isn’t it amazing how the pandemic has shown us how communicative just the eyes can be!?). I nodded dumbly, confused.
“People have been coming in here all day and saying they don’t need to sanitize their hands because they’re wearing gloves,” she continued, shaking her head. “I just keep telling them ‘I don’t make the rules.’”
“Totally,” I replied, mumbling something into my buff, hustling Henry towards the bathroom where, once we got ourselves sorted out, I finally had a moment to think about what the lady had said.
How pathetic is it that an employee in a chalet at a ski hill feels compelled to say “thank you” to people for following very basic Covid guidelines? And I want to be clear here – this has nothing to do with whether you agree with the guidelines, and everything to do with whether you are a decent human being – because employees in the service industry have ZERO say over province or city-wide mask mandates. Employees in the service industry have ZERO say over the public health guidelines their employers must follow in order to remain open. Employees in the service industry are on the frontline of this pandemic in order to earn a living, and yet so many of us think our opinions give us the right to make their working life fraught and tense and miserable as they steel themselves to deal with an onslaught of people who treat them like the rules were their own personal creation, and like the fault for the inconveniences caused by the pandemic rest solely on their shoulders.
Wear the damn mask. Sanitize your damn hands. And move through the world in a way that respects others, because employees in the service industry deserve better.