May 20th, 2024

Retail and restaurant workers are pandemic heroes

By Lethbridge Herald on October 16, 2021.

Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald

Throughout the struggles of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all read, heard or even written about the heroic efforts made by Alberta’s healthcare workers to deal with this crisis.

The frontline workers, who deserve the full support of all Albertans and our government, are living saints for the risks they take on a daily basis to keep us alive and healthy. 

But we have other heroes among us, people who are taken for granted and probably aren’t given enough consideration for their work during the pandemic.

I’m talking about restaurant workers and store employees who are faced with the daunting challenge of ensuring customers follow regulations, which include masking mandates, and when required, showing proof of vaccination.

Whether they work at a fast-food outlet or a big box store, these workers endure daily and often horrific abuse from anti-maskers who erroneously say provincial rules are infringing on their rights.

Such protestations are absolute rubbish – anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers don’t have the right to put other lives at risk and are the reason Alberta’s intensive care units are at the breaking point. And contrary to the conspiracy theories we see on social media, those ICU units are filled because the unvaccinated are catching the disease and spreading it. Not because vaccines don’t work, which they are proven to.

The false information being spread is terrible and is due to people relying on social media sites like Facebook instead of following legitimate news media. And no, we aren’t controlled or owned by government or “big Pharma.” 

 We, who are wearing masks and have been vaccinated, are the reason our province’s healthcare system isn’t in even worse shape. It’s because we believe in the science and respect each other.

Too often ‘respect’ is a foreign concept to those people who belittle and insult restaurant and store staff who may be barely making ends meet on minimum wage, staff who are in a front line of their own, helping consumers be able to have some normalcy in their lives.

The young teenager or elderly person working a till at your favourite taco or hamburger joint doesn’t deserve the abuse being handed out by customers who refuse to wear masks or show vaccine identification, both of which are needed to protect restaurant staff and their other customers. 

These staff get a huge amount of abuse from unco-operative customers who mistakenly think they have some sort of rights.

Well what right does anyone have to be verbally abusive or demeaning to another human being? There is no such right and being a person who’s taken my share of abuse from people over the years, I sympathize with restaurant workers and those in hardware and grocery stores who face similar ignorance.

These people are doing their jobs, a job they wouldn’t have to do if everyone simply complied with masking rules and got vaccinated. But anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers have rights, they say. Tell that to the person who is brought to tears by abuse and anger while taking an order for a $7 hamburger. Tell that to the person filling prescriptions at a pharmacy or stocking shelves at a grocery store who asks people to don a mask or leave and is sworn or screamed at.

Tell that to anyone who during COVID-19 is working in retail or any form of customer service. Nobody has the right to be abusive, nobody has the right to ignore provincial regulations. And the reason we are in such a precarious situation with COVID-19 after all these months is because a minority refuse to think of others and instead put themselves first, even ahead of common decency to their fellow man or woman.

The stories I’ve heard from people in various retail businesses are stomach-churning. Nobody deserves the abuse some get, and it’s not the fault of their company or manager, or the Alberta government – it’s the fault of our fellow Albertans for selfishly putting themselves before anyone else.

Our retail workers are heroes, too and every time we patronize a store, restaurant or gas station, we need to be thankful for these people who are keeping commerce alive and stomachs full during these extremely difficult times.

NOTE: Except for an interview with Ryan Dyck about an upcoming album release, I won’t be here next week so this column will be on hiatus until Oct. 29. 

With any luck, I’ll get the remainder of my fall yard work done if the towering poplars co-operate and drop their leaveS. And I pray the dog co-operates when the vet tries looking at his teeth. Paws crossed.

Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.

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