The mask thing

What the hell is going on with us?

I learned that most convenience stores in New York aren’t enforcing the mandate that we wear masks when we’re in stores.

And before you, like I, jump to the wrong conclusions, let me tell you why.

In Ulster County, you’ve got Cumbie and Stewart’s. In Delaware County, the go-to convenience store is Mirabito. Its convenience stores are in just about every town, no matter how small.

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Joe Mirabito is the company president. He’s a loud, plain-spoken kind of fellow, and he doesn’t mince words if a customer calls asking about why his managers are telling employees not to say anything to customers who come in without masks.

It’s not, he says, worth risking their safety. He gets “the mask thing,” he says, and is quick to make sure his workers wear them.

It’s the customers that are the issue. He has to protect employees from the customers.

There have been problems with enforcing the mask mandate in many of his stores, but it’s been the hardest in the most rural areas. There was a confrontation in Deposit last Friday night which ended up with one employee in the hospital and another who tried to help her colleague pressing charges against a customer.

According to state police, two customers came in without masks and spit on employees after refusing to wear them. There was a scuffle, and police say it ended with a cashier on the ground, allegedly getting kicked by a minor who is now charged with assault.

The state organization that represents convenience-store owners said Mirabito’s experience is the first confrontation in New York that’s led to arrests and hospitalizations, as far as they know. But they say members are very aware of problems in other states.

And they’re not risking pushing the point.

I ask again. What the hell is going on with us?

Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.

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