Workers tired of being "unpaid public health educators" to anti-maskers

Feb 25 2021, 4:00 am

Customer and client-facing workers in Vancouver say dealing with people who refuse to wear masks or follow public health orders adds a frustrating layer to their workload during the pandemic.

Daily Hive spoke with the owners of local food shops Tuesday who are fed up with rude patrons angry that they’re simply following public health guidance. On Wednesday, we heard more stories from workers who’ve faced kickback from enforcing public health measures.

Alex Biggs, a commercial real estate agent based in Vancouver, usually works with developers trying to complete multi-million dollar deals. But sometimes his clients refuse to wear masks.

“A lot of them feel like they’re untouchable, like they’re god,” he told Daily Hive.

He recalled one high-pressure day overseeing a $35-million deal when one elderly client said he wouldn’t wear a mask to come sign the necessary paperwork because it made him feel like he was choking.

Biggs knew digital tools such as DocuSign wouldn’t work for the client, so he ended up running the documents down to the man’s car so he wouldn’t come into the office mask-less.

“In commercial real estate … developers are like shark tank going for deals. You can’t miss thing,” he said.

He made the deal happen in the end, but it frustrates him that that people sometimes choose note to protect those around them.

“Why not follow the guidelines, follow the rules? We’ve lost so many lives.”

Over in Mount Pleasant, the owner of East Side Re-Rides motorcycle apparel consignment shop told Daily Hive she’s tired of acting like an “unpaid public health educator.”

Elaine Miller bought disposable masks when she reopened in June 2020, and offered them to customers right away knowing she’s at high risk for COVID-19 complications. Most of her customers are lovely, but a small portion can be extremely difficult.

She’s endured a lecture from an individual who referred to COVID-19 as a “scamdemic,” turned angry customers away who refused to put on a mask, and been the subject of eye rolls and accusations of stupidity.

“I have had people standing in the middle of my store shouting at me. Saying when they put on a mask and die immediately from lack of oxygen they will sue me for every dollar,” she said.

It only takes a small number of people behaving like that to take the joy out of working, Miller said. She gets through it by trying to move onto her next task, and with small jokes such as calling the anti-maskers “public mask-debaters.”

“I just want everybody to tuck their sweet little noses inside their masks and relax,” she said.

Current public health orders mandate that everyone must wear a mask in an indoor public space. But some people choose to disobey that rule and are vocal about it, such as an anti-masker who berated employees at Kerrisdale Cameras this month and a mask-less man who fought with store staff at a Burnaby Canadian Tire.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has urged British Columbians to “be kind, be calm, and be safe” for nearly a year now, but apparently some people visiting local businesses have missed the message.

Henry has previously said that those who disagree with mask-wearing should stay home and instead shop online.

“I have no time for people who believe that wearing a mask somehow makes them ill or wearing one is somehow a sign of a lack of freedom,” she said at a November 25 news conference.


Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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