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Ladies and gentleman, the okay-75.
Ladies and gentleman, the okay-75.
Photo by Kate McLean

The Ups and Downs of Wearing a Mask While Waiting Tables

There are serious YOLO vibes going on as more and more American’s don their masks and gay apparel. And yes for some who work in the restaurant industry it does feel amazing to be shaking gin fizzes and eating mis-ordered pizza in the back of the kitchen once again—and of course seeing dear regulars and their relief to see you.

Also, there are fewer kids dining out—which means the 14-year-old vacuum cleaner doesn’t smell and sound like a hot bowl of mac n’ cheese having an exorcism.

Among other safety precautions, it’s important that owners are making employees feel safe and setting them up for success by providing masks and requiring that they’re worn. Because working in the restaurant industry and having health insurance aren’t exactly synonymous.

Guests also have a commitment to restaurant staff to play by the rules and, um, not cough and sneeze everywhere.

While it’s a little odd to be visually communicating with guests only using your peepers, wearing a mask can have its perks! As well as its downfalls. Here are a few:

Sight reduction: Caution! It’s a little hard to notice anything going on directly south of your face like where you’re walking. Tripping happens, which on the upside, if it happens in front of guests could lead to sympathy tips. Lemons, lemonade.

Style: Masks are a great way to express personal style in the same way chefs get to have fun with their pants. If it's kittens wearing mittens— yes, Barbara.  If it's a lifelike replica of Pennywise's maw—okay, why though?

Mystery: A mask adds mystery! Eye contact is back, baby. Plus, it’s quite exotic— and even more so if you nudge your boss to select the sitar station on Pandora. People crave what they can’t have and though the eyeballs are the windows to the soul blah, blah, the smile is the window to — 20 percent. If you feel comfortable, back up, like way back, rip down your mask, and flash those chompers. It will make guests feel special and that’s the point anyway isn’t it?

A more successful sympathy laugh: Sometimes it’s important to rattle off a sympathy laugh in order to avoid hurting a guest’s feelings. It’s okay, we can’t all be Dave Chappelle. The sympathy laugh is way easier to pull off with a mask because you can exaggerate the sound better without the weird shape of your mouth betraying the effort.

Enjoying a snack on the clock: Returning to the burnt pepperoni pizza in the back of the kitchen. Typically, there isn’t time to finish chewing. It’s bite, wipe, back out front. Wearing a mask buys time for a few extra chews. Also, if you don’t have time to check your teeth or whether or not there’s caesar dressing dripping off the corners of your mouth, who’s going to know? The answer is no one.

Quietly mouthing expletives: Yay. Have fun with this one—a few things though: careful the tongue doesn’t protrude in and out of the mouth, that’s tell-tale you’re up to something. Also, keep the volume down, like way down.

Sneezing: When a mask wearer has to sneeze and doesn’t have the Olympic strength required to suck it back, the mask wearer must quickly accept this fate and prepare for a bucket of water hitting the windshield type scenario—except the bucket of water is coming from inside the car.

Not contracting a virus: Whether it's an n100, an n95, an okay-75 or a Duct tape rigged adult diaper, not giving the coronavirus to others by wearing a mask is a definite good deed. Never mind the sweat goatee that lives on the lower part of your face. It's all good.  Wearing a mask is just like going on a road trip, five minutes in and you completely forget you were driving in the first place.

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