Imagine this: It’s a sunny Saturday at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. You are working as a ride operator in a children’s area. A mother walks up to your ride with her child—without a mask. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the park has instituted a mandatory mask policy for all guests, ages 2 and older.
You tell the family they need to wear a mask in order to ride, pointing to your own mask shielding your face. You brace yourself. You’re not sure if you will be met with understanding or an onslaught of screaming, name-calling and swear words.
This was my experience as a ride operator at Cedar Point this summer. Although I loved bringing joy to guests in what has been a very difficult year for many people, being met with verbal aggression over wearing a mask often made what was meant to be a fun job a nightmare.
Being screamed at multiple times a week made me feel like a villain, but I had to do the job I was paid to do.
Currently, 49 states require some form of mandatory mask policy, according to Masks4all, a volunteer organization meant to show the importance of wearing masks. In the case of private businesses, the job often falls on customer service workers to enforce these policies for both customers’ and their own safety.
Asking someone to wear a mask might appear to be a simple task, but some customer service workers have found themselves requiring serious medical attention after performing this requirement of their job.
In August, a guest at Sesame Place, a children’s theme park in Pennsylvania, punched a teenage worker in the face after being asked to wear a mask, as reported by The Washington Post on Aug. 20. The teen sustained injuries requiring jaw surgery.
But the aggression over masks isn’t limited to theme parks. Although it has been months since the coronavirus arrived in the U.S., news stories still continue to surface daily, reporting customer service workers in professions ranging from bar managers to Family Dollar employees sustaining injuries after asking their customers to wear a mask.
The increase in violence toward customer service workers for simply doing their job is extremely scary considering how many people work in these positions.
Not only do they go to work every day with the looming threat of catching a deadly illness, but they also face the new possibility of ending up physically wounded for doing their job. These factors initiate an immense stress over one’s safety, creating added work anxiety.
When you interact with anyone working in a customer service position, please remember they are only doing their job by enforcing mask policies—ones they didn’t create themselves.
Customer service workers already receive enough complaints and unkind words during a regular shift, so please be respectful. Part of this respect is having your mask on correctly by wearing it over both your nose and mouth when you enter a business.
Mask-wearing is like a group project: If not everyone participates, there is a much higher chance of failure. Yes, wearing a mask can be hot and uncomfortable for both customers and employees, but working together by wearing one is an efficient way to keep everyone healthy and safe—and out of the emergency room for unnecessary violence.