I went to a job interview where they’re not taking COVID seriously … or how to make a scene when you need to make a scene

A reader writes:

I recently interviewed at an organization that I would consider working for, but I had some big concerns about their Covid precautions.

When I arrived for my interview, no one in the office was wearing a mask except me. This concerned me, but I felt that people were distancing so I decided to give the benefit of the doubt.

While I was in the waiting area a woman without a mask sat in the chair right next to me and it looked like she worked there because she had a big stack of paperwork that she was going through. I didn’t want to ask or look too closely because she was so near to me and it made me nervous. I was trying to look away the whole time to limit exposure. Not sure that helps, but I was not sure what to do.

I was then escorted by the HR woman to the interview room down the hall. She had put on a mask and that made me feel better. The two owners, who were also in the interview, were definitely not on the same page. One of them had a mask on the whole time, but she was not wearing it properly. Her nose was popped out the top the whole time. The other owner had a mask on at first, but a few minutes in he took it off. The room was fairly big and we were far enough apart that I decided it was okay.

However, it was not big enough to account for what happened next. The man sneezed twice. He did not cover his face AT ALL the first time and made a sad attempt to sneeze into his elbow the second time. I was really disturbed by this but did not feel comfortable saying anything.

Otherwise, the interview went well and it seemed like my skills were a good fit for the job. I have decided that if I am offered the job, I will let them know how unsafe I felt during the interview and give them an ultimatum about implementing better precautions. It is bad enough to expose me and each other, but this is a healthcare-adjacent field. They work with some very sick people who need to be protected too. I considered reporting them, but the process for someone who wasn’t an employee was unclear.

I do not need this job badly enough to not say something, and I honestly would not feel comfortable working there unless they made some changes. I think it’s important enough for me to say something and risk not getting the job by appearing “difficult” and I hope my concerns might prompt changes for those already working there and clients. Do you have any suggestions on how to say these things to them if I am offered the job? If I am not, should I say something to them anyway?

I am disappointed in myself because I didn’t do anything in the moment. I felt uncomfortable rocking the boat in an interview, but I hate having been kind of a doormat too.

I wouldn’t take this job if it’s offered, since you say you don’t need it. Even if you address your concerns and they promise to make changes, they’ve already shown you they’re not taking safety seriously enough. It’s unlikely that having already ignored months of public health warnings, they’re going to dramatically overhaul things based on one person’s complaint and then sustain those changes. It’s very likely that no matter what they promise, they still won’t take it seriously enough. So if you only want a job that takes employee and patient safety seriously, this isn’t that job.

But I do think you should say something, because they need to hear that people are bothered. One person’s complaints may not matter to them, but if they hear it from multiple people, it has a chance of sinking in. Be one of those people.

If you’re offered the job, you could say this: “I appreciate the offer. There’s one big concern on my mind, which is the lack of safety precautions I saw when I was in your office. People weren’t wearing masks or distancing — someone sat right next to me in the waiting room with no mask. My interviewer wasn’t wearing a mask and was sneezing while we were talking. Can I ask why your office isn’t complying with the CDC’s guidelines for businesses?” … followed by, presumably, turning down the offer unless you hear something surprisingly reassuring (perhaps “we’d all been carbon monoxide poisoned that day, weren’t thinking clearly, and were horrified afterwards”).

If you’re not offered the job, you could adapt that same language, framing it as, “I appreciate you getting back to me and wish you all the best with your new hire. Can I give you some feedback about the experience I had as a candidate?”

Alternately, you could withdraw from the process now and explain why. But there’s potentially more opportunity to have an impact if you wait until they’ve decided they want to hire you and turn down their offer then. (Of course, you need to balance that with the fact that if you wait and they reject you, at that point anything you say will probably carry less weight. There’s no way around that, though.)

Let’s also talk about what you could have done in the moment! It’s really common to feel uncomfortable rocking the boat in an interview. Lots of people feel that way! Something is happening that you didn’t expect and which is clearly wrong, and it’s hard to think of a way to address it on the fly that doesn’t feel rude or awkward or confrontational, and you don’t want to make a scene. That’s especially true in job interviews, but it happens in all sorts of other situations too.

The best way to handle that is to be prepared with a few stock phrases ahead of time, so they’re ready when you need them and you’re not scrambling for wording in the moment. You can’t always predict what weird situation will come up, but right now, during a pandemic, wherever you go it’s smart to be ready to say things like:

  • “Could you back up a few feet to give us both more space?”
  • “I’m going to move my chair over here so there’s more space between us.”
  • “Before we go on, would you mind adjusting your mask so it’s covering your nose as well? I’m trying to be really careful.”
  • “Before we start, would you mind wearing a mask? I’m high-risk/live with someone who’s high-risk/trying to be really careful. I’ll of course keep one on myself too.”
  • “Since there’s not a lot of room for distancing in your reception area, I’m going to wait in the hallway — could you let Jane know I’m out here when she’s ready?”
  • And if necessary: “I don’t feel safe staying here because your office is violating public safety guidelines, so I’m going to cut this short. Thank you for your time.”

Some of it too, though, is mental. It’s the work of getting clear in your own mind that it’s okay to assert yourself to protect your safety, even if it feels awkward or uncomfortable and even if it annoys someone else. Most of us know that in theory, but your brain will still often default to Don’t Make A Scene until you take the time to really process what prioritizing your safety means (“it means I will say things like X or Y” and “it means I might create a moment of weirdness, and I’m okay with that”).

I often think that I benefitted tremendously from an activism job I had in my 20s, where part of my job was literally to make scenes. To call attention to animal abuse, I disrupted large events by standing on chairs, shouting, and unfurling massive banners; I crashed private events dressed as a giant chicken; I tossed pies; I went naked in “rather go naked than wear fur” protests. Before every single one of these, I secretly panicked and felt like I was going to have a heart attack. It’s scary to deliberately disrupt the social contract! We’ve been trained since childhood not to do it, and it took a lot of mental work to force myself to overcome all those instincts to Not Make A Scene. But doing it got me comfortable with causing a public spectacle — and as a result, “would you mind moving six feet back?” seems a lot easier.

I’m not suggesting that everyone experiment with public disruptions (although if you can tie it to a good cause, I endorse it). But I do think there’s value in thinking about how wired we are to be polite, and how much our brains resist causing those record-scratch moments, and how much that does or doesn’t serve us as we navigate life. It’s really useful to do the mental work to get comfortable with discomfort — to be okay with being the one to cause a stink in the service of a greater good, and to embrace and honor those acts of discomfort because they’re about who we are and what we want to stand for.

That might feel like a lot for a question about a frustrating interview. But I think it’s right for this moment.

{ 332 comments… read them below }

  1. Construction Safety*

    I’m sure if we were to interview anyone, they would be horrified at our (lack of ) precautions.

    1. Grbtw*

      Same at my company, I’m the only one who wears a mask. It’s going to be rough for them, I plan to quit as soon as I can get on state health insurance and am going to school full time.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I worry if I’m giving out too much medical info at the moment because I ask companies if people will be wearing masks at interviews and if they say no, or that their firm doesn’t ‘require’ any measures then I ask if the interview could be done via video.

      I assume therefore that the companies think “oh great, she’s one of those disabled or sick people so we wouldn’t want her here anyway”

      Rock, meet hard place. I’ve no idea how to balance my need for a job (been unemployed over a year) with my need to not die from a virus.

      1. Long Time Remote Worker*

        I wouldn’t say so. I don’t know what country you live in, but most people around the world understand the importance of taking appropriate precautions. If you find a company that doesn’t seem to care about its employees, I wouldn’t want to work there.

        I have been meeting with staff outdoors, in public parks, 6 feet away. I don’t think our staff are heading back downtown for months, if at all.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          UK. I admit I’m rather paranoid given that I’ve had previous firms treat me badly because I’m disabled (never enough proof for me to complain successfully though! Sneaky)

      2. JSPA*

        As in dating, pushing yourself to match with a bad fit isn’t going to be a long-term success. And it could be damaging in the short term.

        I hesitate to bring up small scale self-employment or monetizing something you’d do for fun anyway, as you’ve mentioned elsewhere how dehumanizing it can be, to have people point you away from your core skill set, into “hey, maybe you can also do,” jobs.

        But at this point, if there’s something that you can do solo–that’s including “balloon animals, yarn cats and funny noises on youtube”–and it gets someone to drop some cash on Patreon or leave a ‘buy me a coffee” / Ko-Fe tip, that’s a little more breathing room in the job search. Plus it expands the network of people who find you personable and fully see you as a human being with skills. “When I’m not doing [skilled technical role X], I really enjoy [fun hobby Y], let me share it with you” says, “I have interests and emotional resources and am a spreader of good vibes.” Something to be said for that!

        1. pancakes*

          I don’t think dating is a good analogy. People don’t go to work for romantic reasons; they go to work to be able to afford a place to live and food to eat. I think, too, you’re overly-optimistic about how easy it is to pay for those things by making balloon animals & funny noises on YouTube.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I’ve just had the thought that given my profession (high level database support/IT Management) it would likely be a detriment if there existed videos of me doing silly stuff online. In my experience anyway companies would like a bit more mature behaviour from senior staff (especially techies in their 40s).

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I am a very experienced embroidery person but I do that to relax, and when the arthritis permits. It’s not bad advice to try and make cash from it! Just can’t do it on a timetable or for anything I’m not interested in (currently doing a freehand SCP Foundation logo because I just felt like it. On my pyjamas. Heehee)

          I’m sure I’ll find something eventually. The IT sector round here is rubbish but things are starting to pick up.

      3. quirkypants*

        We’ve been doing all of our interviewing via video but if we weren’t, I can’t imagine people getting bent out of shape if someone asks us to take precautions.

        Granted, most of us who come in (about 5-8 people per day, in an office made for more than 60) forgo our masks at our desks since we’re social distancing (well over 2 metres/6 feet away, right now there’s no one within 10-15 metres of me) but if someone asked us to I can’t see anyone kicking up a fuss.

        I don’t think you want to work anyplace where they would kick up a fuss and I think the way you’re choosing to bring it up is just fine. I understand the need to work, but this is actually a good time to get a sense of how accomodating and reasonable an employer is.

    3. slih*

      People ask me in their Skype interviews if we require masks. I have to say “no, but we do allow masks.”

        1. Aggretsuko*

          Look up what’s going on in North Carolina…. there is an anti-mask law due to the KKK that is temporarily suspended, but is going back into effect again.

          1. pancakes*

            There are businesses all over the US that have “no masks” signs on their doors for reasons unrelated to old anti-mask legislation. There aren’t many, hopefully, but if you run a quick search for “no masks allowed” and click over to the news tab of results you’ll find several articles about this phenomenon.

          2. Anonymous Pterodactyl*

            That’s… not accurate. That law was amended to allow a public health exception, and the governor of NC issued a statewide mandatory mask order last week.

            NC is not the only state with a no-mask law in place, but I don’t know of any states with such a law actually using it to prohibit people from voluntarily wearing masks during the pandemic.

            1. J*

              Thank you. I was just about to say the same thing. There are certainly individuals grumbling about the NC mask mandate and making a fuss, but I haven’t seen or heard of any businesses in my area asking people not to wear masks. However, I am in a major metropolitan area so there tends to be more people open to wearing a mask vs not. There has always been a big urban/rural divide in NC, though.

      1. slih*

        Yeah, we also have mandatory daily all-staff meetings. 2/10 of us wear masks, including me. One person has been allowed to work from home.
        Those of us working for bosses who have gone with the president’s interpretation of COVID (many of us ‘essential’ or classed thus legally, and therefore have been doing this the whole time) really have to pick between our health and our jobs. I feel like I’m going insane, I feel like I’m trapped, and I want nothing more than to get out. But I need to keep earning this paycheck. I don’t know what I will ultimately do – depends how long this all goes on, I guess. My boss thinks it’s over already. I think we are at the early beginnings of the very first wave.

        1. Quiet Liberal*

          I’m sorry you are going through this. I live in a state that is pretending to care, but not really doing anything about preventing the spread. We are on the front page of the NYT every day as one of the states spiking in new infections – and we do nothing! My job is also considered essential and we’ve been working in the office since day one. Some coworkers spout off about it being a hoax and the company has been giving personal and customer protection lip service all along….kind of half-asses masks, gloves, hand sanitizer. We have plexiglass shields, but the employees routinely take them down. I need my job, too. I have a very niche skill that doesn’t present job openings very often, so I can’t just pick up and go. I’m getting sick and tired of the whole politicization of this pandemic. I feel like a sitting duck.

            1. allathian*

              That’s really unfortunate. The worst thing about it is that masks only help if everybody is wearing them. With a cloth mask, you’re only protecting others from getting your bugs. Not yourself. You’d need at least a surgical mask if not an N95 for that.

              1. Quill*

                I’m only in-office for the rest of this week and I suddenly have way more sympathy for anyone else who wears a mask 8 + hours regularly…

  2. Threeve*

    Depending on how they react–if they’re defensive or indifferent or think it’s funny to be so uptight about masks, all of which are depressingly common–I would also throw this under “interviews” on Glassdoor.

    1. MistOrMister*

      I would love to go somewhere dressed as a giant chicken, but I don’t know that I would have the nerve to crash an event as a chicken :)

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        That kind of thing does get a lot easier fast, once you’ve done it a couple of times. My first experiences with activism involved starting a movement at my university to protect students who were being persecuted by a string of hate crimes, and pure outrage pushed me to stand on a table outdoors and start yelling about the matter to whomever passed by. Well, I found out in a hurry how *easy* it can be to get support if you’ve got a halfway reasonable point and you’re willing to be the one to stand on a table and begin shouting!! Chances are extremely high that if you’re upset enough to be prepared to make a scene, dozens or hundreds of other people are upset too, and aren’t quite brave enough to do what you just did. But they will flock to support somebody who is, because that’s an easier thing to do, and they already wanted to do something even if they weren’t quite brave enough until you did it first.

        I got together with one friend and we took turns on that table for a few hours. By the end of the afternoon, we had given away all of the 200 badges we were asking people to take and wear, and we had five people asking if we were accepting volunteers because they wanted to help. Every single time in the last thirty years when I’ve felt self conscious about making an open scene, I remember that experience and think about how many people probably wished they could have said what I want to say right then, and I say it for all of us.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I don’t stand on tables – so far – but I’ve been in the habit of speaking up for a long time and this is one of the reasons. Many people don’t speak up, so I do.
          It’s amazing what people do. Walk by an obvious problem without doing anything about it, when it only takes a minute to fix.
          The funniest example I remember is one day I went to a grocery store where the door opened into a parking garage. As I walked up to the door there was an empty cart in the middle of the doorway such that people couldn’t get around it, and 10 people standing there looking at it.
          I pushed the cart to the side, the people went on their way, I did my shopping.

          1. Diving back in*

            I have the same tendency to do what needs doing. I end up being the one at my job who puts out the fires. (It’s amazing how many employers who say they want self-starters, actually don’t. I’ve gotten into serious manure, including getting fired, for doing stuff that was *in my job description* and needed doing. I’ve decided that “self-starter” in a job description is the approximate lingual-garbage equivalent of “people person” in a résumé or cover letter.)

            I’d do the chicken suit — it’s not like they’d know who you were — but nekkid is a NOPE. I don’t want to be responsible for the eye-bleach bill! (Is anybody else surprised to learn that those are paid positions, not just passionate volunteers?) I’m probably too introverted for the stand-on-a-table-and-scream thing, but I can see where it might get… addictive?… if I stumbled into doing it and it worked.

            On the topic of speaking up…

            I don’t typically consider myself a speaker-upper, but like I said, I do what I gotta do.

            Once on grand jury duty, I noticed a man who wasn’t on the panel sitting in the back of the room while we heard evidence and prepared to deliberate a case. (There were 20 or 30 of us spread out in a room full of long tables, and we took snack/smoke/bathroom breaks between cases, so sneaking in was not that hard. We were in a secured building but not a secured room.) He was in his 30s or so and was dressed like the rest of us, business casual.

            I tolerated his presence during the testimony (though I probably shouldn’t have). I suppose I was waiting for the forewoman, or even the state’s attorney, to run him off.

            When it came time to deliberate and vote, I wasn’t having it. “Hold on a minute. Who is this guy, and why is he here?”

            He got up and left without saying a word.

            I quickly learned that I was not the only one disturbed by his presence when several people thanked me for speaking up.

            Notably, the SA was *not* one of those people. She had pretty much no reaction whatsoever to an unauthorized person being in the jury room. Hmm.

            I assume he was a cop who was somehow involved with the case.

            That was decades ago, and I’m horrified to this day that it fell to me to do anything about it.

            Too often, “lead”ers… don’t.

        2. Sacrificial Pharmacy Tech*

          Standing on tables shouting is so much fun! I’ve done that more than once. I also almost got arrested during a huge End the Fed rally in DC because we were apparently “disturbing the peace.” [insert many eye rolls]

  3. Professional yeller about civil rights*

    I can only agree with the advice about learning how to be disruptive when needed, even though I usually “make a scene” via press releases these days. This is an incredibly important skill for disrupting unsafe situations. Other ways of learning how to do this include self-defense classes with a well-qualified instructor and bystander intervention training!

    1. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

      Much like with discussing pay with fellow employees, I’m trying to convince the people around me that some “politeness” is just a convenient tool for people to control you, or something that is not appropriate in our new normal. Those who behave badly want you to be uncomfortable with the very idea of confronting them. Politeness is not a virtue in itself, it’s only good because it serves the purpose of respecting other people’s comfort and boundaries. Your safety, your fair treatment, and the safety of others (literally people’s lives) are infinitely more important than the concept of politeness, especially when (as Alison often points out), having a natural reaction to someone ELSE breaking the social contract does not even count as impoliteness on your part. My Favorite Murder says it well with their catchphrase “Fuck politeness.”

      1. Important Moi*

        + 10000.

        Politeness as form of control extends to outside of work situations as well.

        I’ve told too many people “Everyone who smiles at you is not your friend. Everyone who says a stern word is not your enemy.”

    2. Sue*

      I remember practicing out loud with my daughters when we were talking about unwanted touching. The advice was always to act it out because it can be so uncomfortable in the moment. It was strange to do but did feel helpful and it is the same idea here. Have it ready if needed.

      1. allathian*

        I’ve been doing the same with my son, although it’s been a while since we discussed it last.

  4. alienor*

    There was a video a day or two ago of a woman in a grocery store not far from where I live, literally screaming at the top of her lungs and throwing things because someone had said she needed to wear a mask. (Having worked in a grocery store during college, it didn’t surprise me at all–people used to have screaming fits on the regular because we were out of 25-lb bags of carrots or because their store card had expired and needed to be renewed.) I think if the non-mask-wearing contingent has no trouble behaving that way, then the rest of us should feel fine about politely saying something when needed.

    1. BradC*

      It doesn’t change your underlying point, but FYI that incident turned out to be entirely planned: she stood in line (with her mask) for 30 minutes, then after being allowed entry, deliberately took her mask off while she walked around the store waiting for someone to say something, not actually putting anything in her basket.

      1. Justme, the OG*

        Which incident? There are two that have made the news lately. One where a woman had completed her shopping and was yelling ad throwing things on the floor once she was asked to wear a mask. And the other where she claimed she had breathing issues and yelled at people.

        1. EPLawyer*

          The second one she was HOLDING a mask. Literally. She just did her screaming act after being told to put it on (she also had more than 10 items in the express lane). These are all acts for whatever reason.

          Don’t be like these people. You can politely state please move back or can you put your mask on. Walking out with throwing a temper tantrum while calmly stating while you are leaving is also very effective.

          1. Seal*

            Refused to wear a mask AND had more than 10 items in the express lane? That woman is pure evil!

            N.B. I always wear a mask when out in public these days and have always felt guilty when the cashier beckons me over to the express lane with more than 10 items so I don’t have to wait.

        2. alienor*

          It was the one at Trader J’s, not sure which of the two incidents that is. In an interview, she claimed to have gotten permission from the manager to go to one store and shop without a mask (unlikely) but accidentally went to a different one instead.

      2. The Original K.*

        I think the planned one was the one where the woman claimed to have breathing problems (but she was healthy enough to scream). I read that account by someone who was there from start to finish, including the part where she waited outside with a mask. I’m not sure if the woman who was throwing food (!) was planned.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Healthy enough to scream doesn’t preclude breathing issues that would prevent someone from wearing a mask.

          I’m not saying the lady in question acted appropriately (she didn’t), but the “if you’re healthy enough to do X, you’re healthy enough to do Y” is slightly ableist.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I read a rant from a surgeon saying people who can’t breathe well enough to wear a mask shouldn’t even be out shopping. Having worn one for hours on end at work, alongside her colleagues in the operating theatre, I think she knew what she was talking about. I’d post it, but I seem to remember it was in French.

            1. Eukomos*

              I mean, if you’re asthmatic a mask could 100% trigger an attack, and if you live alone you still need to get groceries somehow. And it’s not super easy to get a grocery delivery slot these days. The rest of us need to wear masks so that the people who can’t can get the groceries they need without running an undue level of risk.

              1. HDJ*

                Are there any documented cases of people with asthma having attacks solely from wearing masks? I have asthma and so do most of my family members, and while wearing a mask sometimes makes me feel like I’m suffocating, I can’t imagine it actually triggering an asthma attack. A panic attack, sure, but an asthma attack seems unlikely.

                Also, there are other accommodations for people in need. Volunteers who can shop for you, the store employees themselves can shop for you, wearing a face shield, wearing a mask that’s larger or looser or otherwise better-fitting, etc. While we should definitely protect the person with asthma, we should also remember that masks are for protecting others from the wearer. It’s an awful question to ask, but is that one asthmatic’s life really worth risking hundreds of others?

        2. fhqwhgads*

          It sure seemed suspicious when I first saw that headline, as my understanding is that for weeks Trader Joe’s has had staff outside monitoring the line making sure everyone waiting to go in knows they will be required to wear a mask to enter. So the notion that she got in there without one was odd to begin with. I’m not surprised she had one and then took it off given Trader Joe’s very public policies at the moment. If she just wanted to make a fuss and go viral she should’ve chosen a store with less stringent policies.

    2. The Original K.*

      Yeah, I saw a video where a bunch of customers with masks shamed someone without one so badly that she left the store. I support that energy.

      1. asterisk*

        As much as I’m in favor of social peer pressure and wanting everyone to wear masks, I’m not sure I quite “support that energy”. There ARE people for whom wearing masks does provide a difficulty, and the idea that someone makes them feel so uncomfortable that they leave the store doesn’t sit well with me. And since we can’t always tell who’s faking that situation and who’s not…

        I guess it’s kind of like any of the social safety net programs–yes, there are people that game the system, but let’s not shame everyone in that situation in an attempt to rout out those who may be abusing it.

        1. Rachel in NYC*

          I try to stop for a second but if I see you have a mask and are just not wearing it I’m going to say something.

          And if you don’t seem to have a mask I’m going to stay far away- cuz yes, I’m going to assume you have a medical condition rather then you took your mask off once you got inside the store but REALLY, you and the person you came with both have medical conditions and can’t wear masks- what are the odds?

        2. Turquoisecow*

          And those people can have other accommodations made for them. They can have someone shop for them or do curbside or delivery. Shopping without a mask is not a reasonable accommodation for anyone.

          I have asthma and even if wearing a mask is annoying, have a respiratory illness is probably worse.

          1. The ADA Doesn't Work that Way*

            Exactly, people who legitimately can’t wear masks do not have the right to go anywhere they want without a mask on. Nor should they be. If you can’t wear a mask, coronavirus would kill you. Anyone who can’t wear a mask can ask for, and get, other accommodations such as delivery or curbside pickup.

          2. MusicWithRocksIn*

            Or wear one of those face shields. Those are becoming more and more available now. Not quite the level of a mask, but making the effort.

            1. Not Me*

              But they aren’t recommended as a preventative measure for an airborne virus like COVID-19, they would still be considered “not wearing a cloth face covering”.

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                I’ve read at least one doctor’s statement that the fact shields are actually better at preventing the spread of Covid in relatively large, well-ventilated areas. They block the large-viral-load transmissions like coughing and sneezing more effectively; it’s the small-particle loads that drift on the air from breath that they won’t prevent from getting around. If you’re outdoors or in a large, well-ventilated space, that type is probably not going to let anyone breathe in enough viral load to be infectious anyway, and the issue is more about preventing yourself from outright coughing on somebody. At least that’s what this epidemiologist said. There’s so much that we’re getting different reports on that in not positive what to believe, but I’m at least hearing this from a source with creds. It doesn’t apply to small, closed spaces, however; those definitely need actual masks.

            2. a good mouse*

              Universal Studios in Florida recently announced that’s their ADA accommodation for people who won’t or can’t wear masks in the parks. The answer isn’t “I get to just go in mask free,” it’s “you need a face shield.” Even if it’s not 100% as good as masks, though the science seems mixed, it’s better than nothing at all. Also they still say you need masks for some rides, so either you have to put on a cover for those experiences or give it a skip, just like you would for rides where you have to transfer from a wheelchair.

          3. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

            Are you going to pay the extra $$$ that comes with grocery delivery or the tips that come with food delivery? As bronchially compromised as I am, I would love to have my groceries and meals delivered to me but I just can’t afford it. In my situation, that is not a reasonable accommodation.

            1. Turquoisecow*

              It’s not a reasonable accommodation to put everyone else in the store at risk on your behalf. You not wearing a mask means that every other shopper and employee is at risk. That is not reasonable any more than the employer who demanded that employees line up in height order to appease an employee with OCD.

              1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

                Well, for starters I *do* wear a mask despite my insane amount of bronchial/pulmonary issues. I have a doctor’s exemption note, but I do wear a mask.

                But my point still stands: it’s not reasonable for me to go broke.

                1. A*

                  Agreed. But the counter point also still stands that risking others physical health is not reasonable either. Unfortunately these are unprecedented times and sometimes the best we can do is compromise in the immediate. Sounds like you’ve found a work around for now by wearing the mask anyways – hopefully as time goes on more alternatives will be available.

                  If you haven’t, it might be worth reaching out to local assistance groups. Several in my area have cut deals with some of the smaller grocery chains to cover the delivery costs for immuno compromised individuals and others in the high risk category (as far as I know they just require a doctors note for participation, which is sounds like you already have).

                2. blackcat*

                  You should contact your local grocery store. I know the Trader Joes near me will take your list, do shopping, and deliver it to your car if you can’t wear a mask for a medical reason. My local one also does it if you have no childcare (they do not allow children in the store at the moment). There is no charge.

                3. in a fog*

                  Unsure if you’re in the U.S., but if you are, are you on NextDoor? NextDoor can be a dumpster fire in many ways, but in my neighborhood, people are asking for help getting groceries and volunteering to make runs for folks who don’t feel like they can go to the store.

                4. waywardsister*

                  You could also check neighbourhood groups and community orgs on Facebook – at the start of the pandemic, I volunteered for one of many that were shopping for and delivering groceries etc for people who couldn’t go out themselves. It got so busy with volunteers, it became impossible to get a gig! Worth looking for in your area.

            2. Turquoisecow*

              Also, I get my groceries delivered and have not tipped the delivery person. I worked for a supermarket for many years and we were not allowed to take tips of any kind. I would be surprised if curbside pickup allowed tips. In many places delivery fees are low or are being waived.

              1. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

                I was going to say, Kroger is currently waiving their curbside feed and their employees are not allowed to take tips. They’re a bit booked up so you have to schedule your pickups a couple days in advance, but you can edit them up to the night before. I’m sure many other stores are similar. And yes it sucks, but this is a matter of safety. We’ve all had to make some adjustments and sacrifices. The laws of physics and medicine are not discriminatory, they simply are.

              2. QCI*

                The delivery person very likely does not work for the grocery store and would be more than happy to get a tip

              3. RM*

                Here, all deliveries are done by 3rd party services. Drivers make a flat amount per delivery as low as $2. They are independent contractors who pay double taxes on what they make. The tips are pretty much their only pay. One order often takes 45 minutes to an hour and a half of their time. Curbside is staffed by store employees and they make a regular wage and can’t take tips. Please, please, please take a minute to find out what the situation is with different delivery options in your area.

                1. allathian*

                  Yes, this. People who do deliveries are putting themselves at risk of catching COVID every day, so they do deserve their tips! Curbside employees are just like checkout employees. You don’t tip at the checkout either.

            3. Littorally*

              Curbside pickup is free. Anther person’s death is not your reasonable accommodation.

              1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

                Well, considering I have now been tested three times (the last test was this past Friday) and all three tests were negative, *I’m* not going to be passing the ‘rona around so there’s no chance of ME killing someone. There is, however, a chance I will catch it from one of these chizzlewits who don’t want to wear a mask because “mah rights.”

                Please also see the comment below. I have severe pulmonary/bronchial issues and I do wear a mask.

                1. Kal*

                  You could literally catch the virus on your way home from getting a test, so regardless of how recently or frequently you get tested, you should assume you are a potential carrier. And keep in mind that every test has a certain rate of false negatives, so even that isn’t a guarantee.

            4. SongbirdT*

              Have you tried to contact your grocery and asked if they can make this accommodation free of charge for you? I suspect that if you reached out and let them know that masks were a problem and you were trying to be conscientious, but the curbside and delivery fees make it difficult, they can perhaps waive those given the circumstances.

            5. tangerineRose*

              Curbside takeout usually doesn’t cost anything extra. I order online, I get a text when it’s ready, I drive there and open the trunk, and they load stuff in the trunk. I wear a mask when the person comes out; they wear a mask; we never get within 6 feet of each other.

              1. tangerineRose*

                Also, some grocery stores that weren’t offering curbside pickup at first are offering it now. It’s safer for everyone, right?

        3. Person from the Resume*

          Why aren’t they wearing a face shield then?

          Why are they in a store at all? If you can’t take precautions to protect others then you should stay home. In the same way that medically vulnerable people are still recommended to stay home and not even go out.

          We make people wear clothes in public. “No shirt, no shoes, no service” is common. Why not masks?

          1. Nobby Nobbs*

            Last I heard, my sister’s boss was actively considering a “no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service” sign when they open back up.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              May i suggest a 2liner?
              ‘No shirt no shoes no service.
              No mask no entry”

        4. goducks*

          Presumably, a person who legitimately cannot wear a mask is a person with health concerns. How many people who are legitimately unable to wear masks aren’t also protecting their health by utilizing alternative face coverings, or using other accommodations such as having another person shop or using curbside or delivery?

          I’m not saying there’s none, but it sure seems to me that people who are high-risk are the people who also appreciate others wearing masks and who do everything they can to limit their own exposure to others.

          I kind of think of it like immunizations. There are people who are truly medically contra-indicated for certain vaccines. Those people don’t tend to be shouting about the badness of vaccines. They tend to very strongly want everyone who can be vaxxed to get vaxxed, and if there is an outbreak of a vaccine-controlled illness in the community, they tend to take protective measures such as staying home.

          While I agree that it’s possible that a situation could occur where a person who cannot wear a mask is shamed, I think more often than not this hypothetical situation is pulled out as a shield against bad behavior and social pressure to normalize mask wearing.

        5. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

          I am one of those people who has genuine breathing issues (asthma, extreme COPD, emphysema, bronchiectasis, chronic bronchitis *and* I had Legionnaire’s Disease in 1993) and I do have a note from my doctor that I don’t have to wear a mask. But I do, if I’m going to the store. My note is primarily for work. I can wear it for 15-20 minutes to get through the store, but cannot handle it for six hours straight at work.

          My point is, I have severe, really bad, horrible breathing/pulmonary issues but I can wear a mask in the store for the period of time I’m in there. If I can do it, dang near anyone else can, too.

          1. MatKnifeNinja*

            Because that’s money walking out the door.

            My pulmonary doctor treats patients who have had lung transplants, cystic fibrosis to everything in between.

            He sent a snail mail stating none he’s writing no waivers. If you have issues dealing with a mask, he’ll have the on staff psychologist work with.

            The doctor must have really been bugged to snail the letter AND have that on his answering machine.

          2. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

            Thank you Destroyer for saying this. My friend with COPD wears masks in the store also.

        6. tinyhipsterboy*

          I’m a bit mixed on that, honestly. People with breathing problems severe enough that wearing masks isn’t possible really shouldn’t be going out, as they’re high-risk. The ADA has specific provisions for when someone’s presence causes a direct public health threat, too, where the accommodations have to be reasonable but not simply “let them shop without a mask,” whether it’s buy online/pick up in store, curbside pickup, having a staff member shop for them, or grocery delivery.

          We absolutely shouldn’t shame someone for having a medical condition. My understanding is that conditions preventing mask usage are particularly rare (I’ve seen quite a few medical professionals with severe asthma and such discussing how they can still wear masks), but I agree that we shouldn’t be shaming those people at the expense of those who actually can’t wear them. With the number of alternative arrangements we have to help people, though, is barring entry actually shaming at this point considering this is a pandemic in a country leading the world in the outbreak?

          1. Mask Problems*

            There are reasons that are not related to respiratory issues that a person might not be able to wear a mask.

            I don’t have any respiratory issues, but I can’t wear a mask for more than a few minutes at a time. The sensation of the mask and the restricted airflow trigger panic attacks and overheating that are pretty debilitating. The last time I took public transportation I kept my mask on the whole time, but by the end of the 15 minute bus ride I felt like I was going to blackout and throw up, and could barely walk the two blocks to my destination.

            I’m doing my part for public health by finding ways to avoid being in indoor spaces with other people and I’m lucky to have the resources to do so, but I know that’s not true for everyone.

            I think most people who are not wearing masks when they should are doing so out of ignorance or disregard for others, I’m not defending the bulk of the non-mask-wearing public, but I do think it’s important to be aware that some people who are not otherwise at high risk legitimately can’t wear masks.

        7. EPLawyer*

          the ones who genuinely cannot wear a mask, do not start screaming and throwing things when told to wear mask. They politiely explain why they can’t. They also — get in, do their actual shopping, then get out. They do their best to avoid people. The TJ’s lady HAD a mask on to get into the store, then took it off, and walked around — without putting anything in her basket — while aggressively getting in people’s faces. When someone asked her to put a mask on, she began screaming, threatening people with the basket and claiming she was harassed.

          She can wear a mask. She just got her jollies out of being disruptive and making a scene. Quite different than what Alison is talking about here.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            ^^^ this. People without masks that are conscientiously distancing and being careful about when/where they go to the store are MILES different then the TJ lady or anyone screaming about “but my riiiiiights.” I don’t have a problem with the former.

        8. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

          See above comment. If you cannot breath through a mask or any type of facial covering,, perhaps you should not be out and about risking infecting others and/or possibly getting infected yourself. Maximize use of delivery services instead.

  5. prismo*

    Thank you for this, Alison. Yesterday I was in a business where the employee wasn’t wearing a mask (very unusual for my area), and though it freaked me out I was frozen by the “don’t make a scene” impulse and just tried to keep distance from him. Now — at best — I’ll be worried for the next several days at least about whether I caught covid. This advice is really helpful to keep in mind for next time, as I’m sure there will be another instance of someone else’s lack of precautions making me uncomfortable.

    1. CTT*

      This happened to me at the dentist last week; I didn’t stay for the appointment because there was a misunderstanding over the time, but no one was wearing masks and the waiting room was packed and I froze up when I should have said something.

      1. Horrified*

        What?? No wonder you froze up! You have every right to say something before you return! That office should probably be reported to your state’s dental board. Most dental offices are currently required by their licensure boards to have patients call from the car/knock on the door when arriving for the appointment, then have a temperature check and a good slosh of hand sanitizer before being admitted. And forget the waiting room! Patients are admitted only when they can be escorted directly to the exam room. Yikes!

        1. Windchime*

          Yikes, indeed! Even my local fabric shop is taking more precautions. Customers have to wear a mask and are required to wash their hands (not just use hand sanitizer) before entering to shop. Only 5 customers are allowed in the shop at one time and it’s a HUGE shop. I would not feel safe at all visiting a dentist with such lax safety procedures.

        2. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

          Horrified, my dentist did all of this and I was so comfortable. No way would I be in a packed waiting room even if flks were masked up.

          I’ve given up performative politeness. I move away from people and comment about no masks or being too close. People should pay attention but if they don’t I have no prolem reminding them we are in a pandemic. Then again, it helps that I’ve always been outspoken. Not rude, but not afraid to speak up. Now, I don’t really care even I come off a bit rude. It’s rude not to consider others.

          1. tangerineRose*

            My dentist did all of this, too. I’d have been very uncomfortable if they didn’t.

          2. Horrified*

            @Lovely Day in the Pandemic,
            I put off going to my dentist as long as I could after the shut-downs started and was terrified. Like you, though, with the level of precautions, I was actually more comfortable there than the grocery store!

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        My mom — from whom I learned to speak up — just had this happen to her at the dentist. Afterwards she called and talked to the head dentist and he assured her it wasn’t supposed to happen and they’d make changes … and when she went back for a follow-up, things were indeed much safer. So maybe it’s worth a call!

        1. CTT*

          I had been wanting to change dentists for a while any way (there was always something off about the staff/office), so this was the kick in the pants I needed, but I am planning on letting them know why. Hopefully it will result in positive changes!

    2. Shirley Keeldar*

      Fellow freezer-upper here–Allison, this so, so helpful. I am also trying to remind myself that it’s fine to start small. “Um, um, hey, excuse me, could you just, maybe, um, I’m going to back up, okay?” is perfectly fine if it gets you what you want–which is more space! We can’t all jump right to dressing as a chicken or throwing pies or going naked, but hopefully we can all get to the stammering and backing away point. Good luck to OP and to us all!

      1. lobsterbot*

        good point, you don’t need to make the biggest scene every time, just take your space.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        The evil (rather large) part of me is tempted to eat sugar free mints before going out…which give me hazardously stinky gas. Therefore anybody serving me not wearing a mask is going to wish they were…

        (Passive aggressive I know. But I freeze up too under ‘wtf’ situations)

    3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I have so much trouble with employees not masking in retail and whether or not to make complaints about it. In general, I try to be very polite to retail workers because I know it’s a hard job where you have very little control over how people treat you, so I try to be a bright spot (or at least a frictionless one) in their day and not complain about stuff.

      On the other hand, the last time I went to Fred Meyer I had an employee who was not wearing a mask and was rubbing her face come over and try to help me put things in my cart at checkout. It took multiple polite refusals to get her to stop touching my stuff, and I was seriously tempted to scream at her and ask what she was thinking, or complain to someone higher up the chain about the multiple employees not masking or not masking properly. I don’t plan to go back.

      1. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

        I’ve only seen a few retail workers not wearing masks who were behind plexiglas. they should still wear masks.

      2. Sick leave for covid test*

        I did send an email to a store manager near me last week. I didn’t name any specific employees by name, but I did say that I observed staff wearing masks under their noses or pulling their masks down to talk to one another, and recommended further training on safe mask use for staff.

        The goal wasn’t to get anybody in trouble. The goal is for everybody to be safe.

      3. Penny Parker*

        Last week I canceled a $1,500 meat order because the employees at the butcher shop were not wearing masks.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I was startled at how crowded a store I found myself in yesterday, after seeing a max # people on the door. I got in line when it got packed…but that got uncomfortably packed too. I should have left my cart and told the guy at the front door I was leaving due to unsafe crowding. Good idea to practice for the next time.

    5. allathian*

      If it’s any comfort, it’s very unlikely you caught it if it was just in and out. Even in contact tracing they’re only tracking contacts lasting at least 15 minutes.

  6. Environmental Compliance*

    It’s a weird, weird time when a reassuring answer would be “carbon monoxide poisoning”.

    Also, want to agree with Alison that learning to cause a scene really is a benefit when done appropriately. It teaches you how to stand up for yourself, others, and what you believe in. I’ve never crashed events dressed as a giant anything, but definitely did dance on tables/down hallways half dressed as part of an advertising scheme. A lot. I’m sure there’s videos somewhere. (It was for a belly dancing group, and I wanted us to have the same funding as everyone else on campus. So just imagine college EC hip-swishing loudly as possible down campus drive, through the union, on tables at the cafeteria… full dress with all the jingles. But we had a record turnout for the charity events that year!)

  7. bearing*

    When “we’ve all been carbon monoxide poisoned, here in this building where you’d be working” is the most reassuring hypothetical Alison can come up with… you’ve dodged a bullet.

    Bravo. And thank you for the laugh.

  8. Amber Rose*

    Alison, how are you so darn cool on top of being so generally awesome?!

    Anyways, OP: interviews are a good chance to learn about a company at the same time as they learn about you, and in this case with the help of Covid, this company has taught you something important about them. You get to decide what you want to do with that information, but generally speaking the advice “when someone tells you who they are, believe them” also applies to companies. In the end, it’s up to you whether this is a deal breaker or not, but I wouldn’t assume they’ll be changing how things are done any time soon.

    1. Mama Bear*

      This. If this is their “good side” then you probably don’t want to work there and find out what else they think is acceptable office behavior.

  9. Diahann Carroll*

    Sneezing with no mask on and not even bothering to cover his mouth?! Yeah, I would have gotten up right then and said thanks, but no thanks. Like Alison said – we are months into this pandemic, there’s no excuse for this lackadaisical attitude toward safety or this virus. These people just do not care, and OP would be constantly exposed because of this disregard.

    1. Yvette*

      ‘Sneezing with no mask on and not even bothering to cover his mouth?!’ Ick, even without a pandemic that’s cause for concern.

      1. Lyudie*

        Seriously, even during normal times and even if I knew it was just allergies it’s still gross.

      2. tangerineRose*

        Yeah, sneezing without covering your mouth – I’m surprised that anyone older than 5 is doing that in public.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      ‘I don’t care about pandemics, I just want a job where getting pelted with other people’s snot is NOT a daily occurrence!’

    3. Sabine the Very Mean*

      Pre-COVID and this would have made me speak up. During COVID……I may have begun speaking in tongues.

      1. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

        Sabine, LOL. You are so right, I have never tolerated nasty behavior well.

    4. DiscoTechie*

      Agreed, even my 3 year old son get that you sneeze into your elbow. Really that’s his best hygiene skill at the moment. Still working on the other ones.

  10. blackcat*

    For the OP: I’d consider getting a test if it’s been 5+ days since the interview.

    Alison, please tell me there are pictures of you dressed as a giant chicken!

    1. King Friday XIII*

      I’m suddenly incredibly disappointed that Chicken Party Crasher has never come up as an example job.

    2. Grits McGee*

      Every once in a while Alison does interviews with people who have interesting jobs*- can Alison interview herself about this job?

      *The prison librarian immediately comes to mind, and wasn’t there an interview with a magician?

      1. Amber Rose*

        There have been 13 of them, including a belly dancer and a private investigator. I agree Alison should either interview herself or find someone to interview her.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I am happy to say the older niece is following in my footsteps! She sent me a photo of herself in an animal rights protest that looks almost identical to one of my photos, just 20-something years later. (I put them side by side and my heart exploded.) I am very proud of her.

      1. Michelle P*

        You tossed a pie at Oscar da la Renta? Wow, you are brave. I’m chuckling because it looks like it hit him! Ha, ha, ha!!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The best part of this is that later I learned that my FBI file mistakenly says I pied Oscar de la Hoya, the boxer. Which makes me sound extremely tough.

          1. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

            Why in the world do you have an FBI file? Don’t we have a right to protest?

              1. WoodswomanWrites*

                This is reminding me to get my own FBI file to see what it says. Alison, do you have advice for getting this info without having to use an attorney?

            1. blackcat*

              Yeah, they keep records on TONS of people involved in all sorts of protests movements.
              At one point, my dad applied for a security clearance. He was denied and the reason given was the fact that his parents were “involved in communist and anti-American groups.”

              His parents were preachers who organized civil rights protests.

              My dad filed a freedom of information act request on their files and his own. It’s super interesting! His file included information about his parents, siblings, and his time working as a federal law clerk.

              1. Will*

                Wow. How can you have freedom of speech if you have to worry about your children losing their future jobs from 100% legal (and IMO moral) things you did?

            2. WoodswomanWrites*

              Yes, I’m certain I have an FBI file as well. My cousin ordered his file many years ago as part of a college class exercise. He had an FBI file from marching in a protest against the Vietnam War with his parents. He was a little kid at the time.

              1. Will*

                FBI creates files on children for accompanying their parents who were performing their civic duty of protesting? What a waste of time and taxes.

      2. Clisby*

        Oh, gosh, this reminds me of the Designing Women episode where Suzanne Sugarbaker is modeling a fur outfit.

        Protestor: 50 animals died for that coat!

        Suzanne: Want to make that 51?

      3. No Sleep Till Hippo*

        Welp, no use fighting it any longer. I’m officially an Alison Green fangirl. I was trying to stay chill about it but that’s just not possible anymore.

        (And I am DYING at the de la Renta/de la Hoya mixup… Just. Priceless.)

      4. blaise zamboni*

        Alison Green, #1 fave. I want to be you when I grow up (6 years ago). Thank you for being awesome!

      5. Jas*

        That last picture is especially interesting, because it looks more like the pigs are abusing you

    1. neyla*

      I loved those last paragraphs. Alison, would you consider somehow making those into their own post so people don’t miss them? It applies to so much more than this one question.

  11. OP (SNEEZED ON)*

    Hi OP here! I did NOT get offered this job; they wrote me and let me know on Friday. I was anxiously waiting for this to be published and Alison’s advice was AMAZING. I just emailed them and asked if I could give them some feedback. We’ll see how it goes.

    Thank you for the stock phrases – I just made a reminder note of them in my phone. I think they would have been a great way to handle this in the moment, but going forward I am going to keep them handy for navigating our COVID-19 world as well.

    I’ve actually worked with my personal therapist on setting boundaries and getting comfortable with confrontation and I think I’ve made a lot of progress. This definitely challenged that work but I feel armed with some new tools going forward. THANKS AGAIN ALISON!

    1. Amber Rose*

      Hurray! You didn’t seem super excited about that job anyway so I’m calling this a basically happy ending.

    2. Drew*

      Normally, I’d say I was sorry you didn’t get the author, but in this case…congratulations!

    3. Altair*

      Hey go you! And don’t be too down on yourself about freezing in the moment — as Alison pointed out, bucking societal conventions takes practice.

    4. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Are you familiar with Captain Awkward? She has a great phrase that has helped me (a non-confronter) be more comfortable speaking up when it’s necessary: “return the awkward to sender.” The idea behind it is that when the other person has violated the social contract, you are no longer bound by the social contract to be kind and give them the benefit of the doubt. Aunt Karen making racist jokes on the family Zoom? Return awkward to sender. Guy at the grocery store tells you to smile the day a family member died? Return awkward to sender (happened to me, and it was highly gratifying to watch him squirm).

      In other words, the person saying “I don’t feel comfortable continuing this interview given the disregard for the CDC’s public health guidelines I’m saying” isn’t the one who made it awkward…the guy **who sneezed multiple times without effectively covering his mouth and nose** made it awkward.

    5. feather*

      Go you! I’m sorry you didn’t get offered the job, just because rejection is always tough. But it was a learning experience, and that’s never a bad thing! I’m glad you’ve gotten these scripts — and that we got them, too!

    6. Khatul Madame*

      OP, you should have just sent your feedback to the employer. What if they reply “Feedback? Nah, we’re good”?

    7. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’m glad you didn’t have to navigate the awkwardness that would ensue if they’d offered you the job. This is flat out an inconsiderate workplace.

  12. Mkitty*

    Wow, I’m having a minor panic attack just thinking about being in that situation. OP, I totally get that you kind of froze in the moment. It’s very hard to know what to do when you’re faced with with an entire group of people who are acting in the wrong way, even when you know it’s wrong (I’m reminded of the Candid Camera episode in which they got the unsuspecting prankee to face the back of the elevator rather than the front.). As Alison points out, we’re very much programmed to do what everyone else is doing, and even asking for something as simple as “please don’t put me at risk of illness” feels difficult when everyone around you is casually ignoring the advice that keeps us all safe. I hope that if this comes up in other interviews, you’re feeling more able to speak up using Alison’s suggestions.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      This is tricky, too, because in about half of those situations, the people are acting out-of-norm for a valid reason (say, the elevator has doors on both sides, and it opens on the “back” on all the other floors except this one) and then when one person goes against the crowd they get lambasted, “Didn’t you have any situational awareness? Didn’t you see what other people were doing? Wasn’t that a clue something was off to you?”

  13. Michelle P*

    We are required to wear masks at work, but the owner came in last week and walked around everywhere without a mask on. I mean, sure my mask is to meant to protect everyone else, but he doesn’t feel the need to wear a mask to protect his employees. Add in that he is in his 80’s. When the HR team implements mask wearing and told him he would need to wear a mask when visiting our various sites, he said no. If he gets sick and it’s mild, he can stay home and it doesn’t hurt his wallet/family, etc., but if I get sick or have symptoms, I have to isolate, stay home and I don’t get paid. We did WFH during lockdown, but I would not be allowed to do so now that we are back at work. I can use vacation, but I only have 15 days left this year, so that could be my whole time if I have to get tested, wait for results, possibly be positive and continue isolation.

    1. Persephone Underground*

      I’d raise the question of worker’s comp preemptively with HR, since you might have a claim if you get sick at work, and the owner not masking raises that risk. You might even be able to prove it if you otherwise are staying home and not exposed to Covid risk. (I know it’s hard to trace, but floating the possibility could get them to explain the $$$ potentially involved to the boss, therefore potentially changing his behavior.)

    2. Persephone Underground*

      Also, unsolicited advice aside (realized just now you didn’t actually ask for opinions, sorry), that really sucks! Dude, the masks aren’t there just for you, 80 or not! Other people have risks and need you to wear one just as much!

        1. Persephone Underground*

          Exactly! It’s like he’s thinking he’s the only high risk person so it doesn’t matter if he wears a mask because that’s for protecting other people, not himself.

  14. Bell*

    This is just what I needed today. A few weeks ago you also wrote something about how we have to set our own boundaries and take care of our own health and safety because no one is going to do it for us and it hit me so hard. I have to get comfortable speaking up, whether about social distancing or someone making a racist “joke”. In the past I’ve always been one to not want to make anyone uncomfortable but that stops now. This really is life and death and it is important enough to speak up. Thank you for your scripts.

    1. OP (SNEEZED ON)*

      BRAVO! This reply really resonates with me. Getting comfortable with speaking up applies to so many situations – COVID-19, being anti-racist, etc, etc. This is a really important moment in time to develop this skill!

      1. voluptuousfire*

        It’s a useful skill to have. I went to the grocery store in March right around when things were pretty bad and there were 3 people contemplating the goods on the shelf and they were standing in a zig-zag pattern, blocking the aisle. I politely said “excuse me” twice and no one heard me. I then raised my voice to a louder point and said “hello, social distancing! It’s something you should consider practicing right now!” That made them scatter.

        1. Lizzo*

          LOL – this is me on my train commutes home (when that was a thing). “Excuse me…excuse me…hello?…COULD Y’ALL MOVE INTO THE CENTER OF THE TRAIN, FOLKS? WE WANT TO GO HOME TOO!”

          Fun times!

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            “WALK LEFT, STAND RIGHT FOLKS. TOURISTS TO THE RIGHT.” <<< me every day on the escalator when I lived in DC and commuted on the metro. Mumblemumblemumble tourists…

  15. Keymaster of Gozer*

    My sister is starting to do interviews for positions as her PA, and told me a few weeks back that the HR lady in their place sat in the interview that morning, pulled down her mask, coughed loudly several times then pulled it back up!

    Apparently the interviewee went white with fear.

    (Have asked sis, and HR lady has been reprimanded- although she claims she can’t cough with a mask on? – and the interviewee has been sent a massive apology)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        My sister is…well pretty much a 6 foot 3 blond amazon (I’m an inch shorter and disabled) and when she told me she ‘glared’ at the HR lady I’m imagining a LHC-style beam frying eyeballs at 30 paces.

        (She’s my younger sister but scares the crud out of me…)

    1. AnonymooseToday*

      Good for you. I went and got restaurant takeout for the first time last week. Masks are required where I am. Multiple people just hanging out behind the host stand, one of them had their mask hanging off and pulled it the mask up when I came in, even though my food was sitting next to them. Look over and the bartender is talking to a cook with the bartender’s mask hanging off his face, and he’s standing less than six feet away from the two guys at the bar, also without masks. I wish I’d just turned around and left. This is why I haven’t been doing restaurant takeout, I don’t know who is following the rules.

      1. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

        Yep, I feel badly about how hard retaurants have been hit, but no.

  16. Mona Lisa Vito*

    Yes to all this! I was at a restaurant yesterday getting take-out and (after I ordered but before I got my food) saw that none of the people in the kitchen were wearing masks (which is REQUIRED in my state). Got a refund and told them exactly why I didn’t want the food and was leaving. Not going to lie, I was kind of nervous to speak up in the moment, but I’m glad I did it.

    1. ArtK*

      I read a report that said up to 80% of Los Angeles County bars and restaurants weren’t following the rules. Good on you for walking out and telling them why. We’re not doing dine-in yet (far too soon) and wouldn’t get takeout from a place that wasn’t doing the right thing.

      1. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

        That’s the problem, guidelines and protocols are in place, but how do you know they are actually being implemented?

        1. Aggretsuko*

          I can count on one hand the number of masks I see on anyone on the few times I have to go outside. Usually I can count on one finger.

    2. Filosofickle*

      Good for you!

      On Nextdoor I’m seeing reports of local restaurants/shops that aren’t wearing masks properly or at all. (I’m also in an mandated mask state, and my county is strict even outdoors with a 30′ rule.) A neighborhood shoe repair guy reportedly told a patron he (the owner) refuses to wear a mask and the customer should go elsewhere. Noted!

      I hardly ever speak up or complain to a manager, I just don’t come back. Having the presence of mind to say something and refuse the food is what really needs to be done, though. I have to steel myself for this in the future, because otherwise I know I’ll freeze up and just kind of slink out.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Masks aren’t mandatory in the UK (except on public transport I think) and there’s two kebab shops up our main road that have reopened. One has a sign that says they don’t wear masks and have no limits to number of people in the shop at once. The other has clear signage up about social distancing and how their staff have clean masks and plenty of sanitiser.

        Guess which shop has seen practically no customers?

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Yup, even though my home town is one of the places uk people like to make jokes about it is showing a lot of common sense recently. The non mask place has been empty every day.

            Whether that’ll continue when the pubs reopen on the 4th I can’t say.

    3. Jayne*

      I was going to meet a couple of retired colleagues at a restaurant until I learned that one of the colleagues had eight people from five households (Chicago, Nashville, Newport News, and two other locations) at her house for a week. She had previously been very paranoid about getting the virus, but apparently she caved when it was her grandchildren that were visiting. It was a bit passive aggressive, but I cited the growing incidents of Covid in nearby restaurants and also that too many people were moving around the country. Then I called the other colleague and suggested that he think about it further. He cancelled as well. The day that we were supposed to meet for lunch, one of her visitors went to Velocity care to be tested for Covid.

      Less passive, today I cancelled on going to a retirement party that would have consisted of about forty-fifty essential workers. Got a bit of “you can’t prevent when you are going to die” guff, but I decided that this way of dying I _did_ have some control of, at least that particular avenue.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        “You can’t prevent when you are going to die” is my favorite.

        Like, I get that but I’m still taking precautions. Even in non-covid times, by not doing things like, say, drinking bleach or going skydiving without a parachute.

      2. Maeve*

        Where do you live that people are meeting each other in restaurants and having retirement parties??

        1. Jayne*

          Virginia–Phase Two, southwest area, ie, not as hard hit as NOVA (Northern Virginia), although my favorite Thai restaurant just closed their dining room…again. They are helped out that they have a food truck that they can use to gain some revenue.

    4. Aggretsuko*

      I won’t get takeout because of this. I’m agoraphobic now and can’t check on this stuff anyway.

    5. Persephone Underground*

      FTR though, food isn’t a vector for Covid (will drop the CDC link in next post). Direct person-to-person contact and (apparently to a much lesser degree than previously thought) surfaces are the ways the virus spreads. So don’t worry about your meal or the cooks, worry about the person giving it to you standing too close, and maybe throw out the packaging and wash your hands after.

        1. Ike*

          At one point there was no evidence that the virus could be transferred from person to person in the air, either. If Covid can survive on surfaces, then why not food? What is the difference between an apple and a piece of cardboard or plastic? It’s weird that the CDC is saying that the virus “might” be spread by fomites when there’s research and even one outbreak suspected to have been caused by fomite transmission: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/28/well/live/whats-the-risk-of-catching-coronavirus-from-a-surface.html

          I’m all for waiting before passing judgement, but this isn’t a “beyond a shadow of a doubt” situation. If there’s a reasonable possibility that it could spread through a certain method, we should assume it’s happening until proven otherwise.

      1. Maeve*

        Food isn’t a vector for COVID but I’m not giving my money to a restaurant that’s not implementing safe practices. I might not get sick but their employees might.

        1. Persephone Underground*

          That is a fair point, no argument! Just didn’t want misconceptions getting passed around. (I’ve personally found the CDC website very reassuring whenever I was freaking out about exposure etc. so figured no harm in posting the link.)

      2. Jayne*

        I was more worried about the former colleague with the horde at her house than the restaurant itself. And one of them did end up having to be tested for Corvid while at her house. Although, who knows what goes on anywhere.

  17. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    I also took the opportunity to give stark feedback after turning down an offer last month: the non-profit had stated a requirement that my husband relocate with me and insinuated that his presence would be verified in the local church congregation by fellow colleagues (also church members). They attributed this requirement to their core values of keeping families together, but I politely reminded them of older, male employees
    (I am a female, late 20’s), who were not required to have their spouses live in the same town (they got tax breaks for living in 2 countries). As diplomatically as possible, I expressed my appreciation for their values but my shock at the stipulation. That’s aside from advising them not to further start interviews with “Well, this weather isn’t as awful as your President!” (Context: I’m an ex-pat and the position was with an American non-profit in Europe, I would only have been relocating about 3 hours away). Regardless of my views on politics, it didn’t fly.

    1. OP (SNEEZED ON)*

      WHOA! That’s outrageous. I know it is a different country, but that seems downright illegal that they could even think of making this a requirement. If not illegal, it is absolutely unethical.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        The HR director actually sent me back a long, thoughtful email regarding the feedback and apologized that he made it seem like it was a requirement, as well as apologized for making it seem like employment was conditional on a political view. The whole process was different (not being told salary, even after asking, until the 4th interview). It was a great learning experience and gave me courage, going forward to stand up for myself. I just interviewed for an EA position with a firm and was able to use Alison’s coaching to interview them back. It helped me discover that all EA’s are expected to be on-call 24/7 and holidays. Nopety nope. I don’t know what I would do without AAM!!

        1. Observer*

          “Made it seem like a requirement”? Do you buy that or do you think that was just some back pedaling?

    2. WellRed*

      Well, how can they be sure you won’t try to tempt all the menfolk if your husband isn’t around, wanton hussy?

      1. Alli525*

        My father used to work on an island in the Middle East where women were not permitted to stay overnight. They had to ship in every single woman, from the custodial staff to the high-level engineers, every single morning. (And yet my father managed to find a mistress on the island! Where there’s a will there’s a way.)

        1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          Ahhh.. that reminds me to check my Ancestry.com report- Grandpa did visit 60 ports of call in the Navy..

          1. Clisby*

            My uncle (WWII Navy) said he once told a girl, “I got a girl in every port!”

            She said, “Yeah? I got a sailor on every ship. And there’s a lot more ships than ports.”

            1. allathian*

              Great comeback! Especially for the time. Did your uncle get a laugh out of that? I assume it amused him, or he wouldn’t have told the story.

      2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Hahaha! That’s what all those years of Sunday School were: How to give old white men a coronary 101

  18. C in the Hood*

    Also (being “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” person), asking what sort of COVID protocol is being followed prior to the interview can tell you a ton without going through all this.

    1. OP (SNEEZED ON)*

      That’s really good advice. I am definitely doing that going forward. Thank you.

    2. MPS*

      Good point, and you can even frame it as “So I make sure I’m following your (implied strict) policy”

    3. The Original K.*

      I did this when I had to make a doctor’s appointment. My words were “What COVID precautions are you taking?” I wanted to make it clear that I expected them to be taking precautions (which they are).

      1. feather*

        Oh, that’s a great idea! I have an appointment next week, and I’ll double check. Thankfully, it’s at a big hospital-adjacent medical branch, so I think they’re doing things smartly. Can’t be too careful, though. Especially since I’m in Texas.

  19. Todd*

    The company doesn’t think the Covid-19 is serious enough to adhere to the recommendations. If you do, look elsewhere.

    Goes back to the old adage, you do you, I’ll do me.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        It’s an important point. Deciding your firm has no need of protective measures doesn’t just put the workers at risk, it puts customers at risk, it puts anyone who comes into contact with staff at risk, it increases the likelihood that the pandemic numbers won’t decrease any time soon….

        A live virus doesn’t care about a host’s personal morals. If it can get to you and replicate it will.

  20. Ginger Baker*

    I’m really glad Alison brought up how practice “making scenes” makes it easier to make one when needed [to defend your boundaries, address racist comments, etc.]. I have found a very strong correlation between my comfort speaking up in small moments (asking someone to move their bag so I can sit, telling a teenager his backpack almost hit a woman in the face on the bus, etc.) and my comfort speaking up to defend my boundaries or (memorably) to address borderline transphobic comments at work. I think it is KEY to do two things: 1) practice speaking up in small moments and get used to the anxiety-reaction and 2) think up/find and *rehearse* Stock Statements for common/potential situations (“I don’t have the emotional resources to continue discussing this with you” is one of mine; another is “No. That is not okay to say.”). These two things can go a LONG way towards cutting through our Freeze-In-The-Moment reaction (though I can promise that if you get used to jumping on tables and shouting For Work or Being The Giant Chicken [for work], that is definitely a real quick way to jump ahead on the learning curve…!).

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Planned but never used*: “I think you may have assumed I’m a receptive audience.
      *racist neighbor’s next comment went WAY past insinuation so I found myself saying something less concise, less polite, and less memorable. Unclear whether it was less effective because he was moving.

      1. BookishMiss*

        I default to “choose a different word/phrase, please.” The tone varies based on situation, but having the stock words ready to go is super helpful.

  21. YouCanGoHomeAgain*

    I often wish I had more of the ability to SPEAK UP!! Mine is almost nonexistent and as a result people tend to not listen to me. It’s frustrating and sometimes a person gets tired of being the ‘nice girl’. UGH!! I’ve taken assertiveness training several times and it works while I’m taking it but then I go right back to not speaking up again. I’m going to keep trying though.

    1. Michelle P*

      I also wish I could speak up more, but as I have gotten older apparently my face has become “expressive” and if I hear or see something offensive/racist/any form of assholery, my face does the talking. Or least, if did before COVID, because now I wear a mask everywhere except at home.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Same. I used to freeze up a lot, and then that somehow morphed into inability to mask disgusted/horrified face during normal social interactions. I have to get into the proper headspace to do poker face, which I can do for work. Horrific hoarding situations? Darn good poker face. Horrific assholery? Nah, you get the look of Absolute Irate Disgust.

  22. Sleepy*

    I’m curious if there is a class element (not just here, but across the board) in how white-collar workplaces are treating mask-wearing. My friends in the service industry (grocery stores, restaurants) have been strictly required to wear masks at work, no exceptions. My friends who work in offices are getting policies like “Wear a mask when not at your desk” even in an open-plan office…it’s like, what difference does it make if you are at your desk or not?

    1. WellRed*

      The service industry folks work with the public, though. It’s not really the best comparison. If I’m at my desk, there is no one near me.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Our cubes are 6′ wide with alternating door directions– you’re 3 feet from your co-worker on one side, 9 in the other direction, unless you’re one f the few who choose to have your back to the door. In which case you might be that close to the person opposite you or behind you.

    2. Altair*

      Yeah, some of it reminds me of the response to Dr. Semmelweis trying to improve hygiene among doctors: “Doctors are gentlemen, and gentlemen’s hands are clean.”

    3. JustaTech*

      My office has the policy that you have to wear at mask at all times unless you are alone in your office or there is no one else at your cube pod (the set of 4 cubes that touch each other). And as far as I could see everyone is adhering to it well.

      But we’re also a lab that works with human blood, so we’re already used to taking safety and PPE seriously.

    4. Raea*

      I work in an office, and while we are all still WFH through end of summer – once we return we will be required to wear masks whenever we aren’t at our desks. But we don’t have an open floor plan. Seems like the biggest differentials you are pointing to are 1) customer facing positions vs. non, and 2) offices with open floor plans.

      Agreed that in an open floor plan, not wearing masks while at your desk is silly. But that’s a very specific kind of office setup, and one that I suspect will be even more uncommon as offices open back up.

      1. feather*

        Even in a cube farm, which I wouldn’t count as an open floor plan (walls of some height between desks), it’s riskier than companies are taking into account. Air circulates. Being in an enclosed room with someone who is infected for eight hours in a day, with few/no people wearing masks at their desks, is asking for trouble. Thankfully I’m still going to be working from home for a couple months, but they may push even us desk dwellers to come back before I’m comfortable. I don’t look forward to that.

    5. Ellen Ripley*

      Yes, I think people who work in retail have had time to become accustomed to mask wearing, etc., and wearing one all day at work, whereas people who are still working at home or in offices that don’t have the public there are just now thinking about the new rules and adjusting. Masks are not comfortable to wear and the first time I had to wear one for a whole shift it was rough, but now I’ve adjusted somewhat and more importantly it’s become a habit. People who are just now going back to work are still in the early stages of that process.

    6. Ranon*

      There’s a huge difference that I’ve noticed between folks that are used to having to pay attention to workplace safety and those that are not. Construction sites have gotten a bad rap but the ones I’ve been on where the GC has a strong reputation for safety consciousness have been good about mask wearing – and it is dramatically more miserable to be doing so in 90+ degree weather compared to an air conditioned office. But then again, steel toed boots aren’t as comfortable as flip flops and hard hats aren’t nearly as nice as a good shade hat.

    7. allathian*

      In many offices, break rooms and kitchens are closed and people have nowhere to eat lunch except at their desk. Especially if they take public transit and can’t even eat in their car. Obviously you can’t eat with your mask on… And you can’t ask people to work a full day without eating something at some point. Many offices are also putting up plexiglass to separate employees if they can’t keep them 6′ apart.

      1. allathian*

        To specify, in my country employers are by law required to provide space for employees to eat lunch if they work for more than 6 hours straight.

  23. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I’ve learned that the only thing I can do is protect myself. My husband and I have witnessed several restaurants with multiple employees wearing their masks incorrectly (over the mouth but not the nose). So we’ve decided to stop ordering carryout because we don’t know who we can trust to handle our food. If I walked into a store and masks were not enforced, I’d turn around and walk back out. I’d probably be at a loss to say something in an interview as well, but even if I were desperate, I’m not sure I would accept a job at a place who is treating the pandemic as no big deal.

  24. Blarg*

    Pics of Alison dressed as a chicken or it didn’t happen. I’m hoping for “standing on a chair while dressed like a chicken and throwing a pie.”

  25. derp*

    Is there a compilation of stock phrases for calling out sexism/racism/micro-aggressions somewhere on this site? I would love some of those.

    1. Totally Normal*

      Yes!! Maybe an Ask the Readers or something with a list compiled later to reference?

    2. Tía Teapot*

      I’ve found that a disapproving “Wow.” Or “Really?” Or “Seriously?” often works. And depending on how aggressively defensive they get, follow up with just “uh-huh” or “ok.”

    3. kristinyc*

      I’ve always been a fan of acting confused and like you don’t understand the joke.

      Joker: Haha, she did a dumb thing because she’s BLONDE!
      You: I don’t get it…
      Joker: She’s BLONDE
      You: What does that have to do with it?
      Joker: You know, blonde women…
      You: ::confused blink::
      Joker: See, blonde women are…

      And then just let them keep digging until they’re trying to explain the core of their offensive comment. They’ll either get bored, embarrassed, or (hopefully) realize that you’re not the audience for this joke.

      (Also, apologies to any blonde women reading this! Was trying to find a minimally controversial example…)

      1. pancakes*

        Why make them guess—or run the risk of them thinking you’re obtuse—rather than politely express disapproval?

    4. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Seeking Second Childhood had a great one from a thread further up that I am now memorizing: “I think you may have assumed I’m a receptive audience.”

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Here’s hoping the phrase will be useful even if my neighbor didn’t get to hear it.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          It works pretty well when delivered absolutely deadpan calm with a titch of ice. +1000

    5. BookishMiss*

      I use “choose a different word/phrase” as my go to. In my job i have a fine line where I have to make people feel welcome but also correct them into the company culture, and it seems to work well. If it doesn’t work, I go with “I’m sure you meant to say that in a more respectful way.” I’ve never had to go past that at work.

      At family functions? Bang on the table, swear in front of the grandmother, loudly monologue about a random subject… They at least make it stop temporarily, and my family all knows I’ll physically leave if it keeps up after that. “Sorry, gram, but you’re child is being horrible, so I’ll see you next time!”

    6. Anlina*

      I think Alison has provided scripts in a variety of posts, Captain Awkward is an amazing resource for these kinds of scripts too.

  26. LurkNoMore*

    I’m getting very sick and tired of the people not wearing the mask over the nose! I want to be crude and shout “that is the same as wearing your underpants with your penis hanging out” but I’m not brave enough!

    1. pancakes*

      The meme is funny but I don’t think it works at all with no image. “Your mask is on wrong” is much more to-the-point.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Very polite: “Your mask slipped” (in Alison’s “of course we all want to do this right” voice)
        For the co-worker you’ve exchanged wise as remarks with for 5+ years: “Nice chin-warmer!”

        1. pancakes*

          If there was someone I worked with that long &/or had a decent relationship with who wasn’t wearing their mask properly I’d just ask them why they’re not wearing it properly. Making a little joke about it seems too cutesy for these circumstances.

  27. Freddybeans*

    Oh boy, OP, I can totally relate to not wanting to make a scene. My husband and I had an incident with our neighbors yesterday, and we did NOT know what to do! They would not keep their distance, no masks, were sneezing…I kept far away, but my poor husband ended up a little too close for comfort. I made some excuse so we could get out of there as quickly as possible. The only fortunate thing was that we were outside. If this should happen again, I won’t be so polite!

    1. pancakes*

      It isn’t impolite to ask people to observe social distancing and wear masks during a pandemic! Your neighbors’ carelessness was impolite.

  28. Observer*

    OP – don’t issue an ultimatum. DO speak up, but not that way. Ultimatums will not get you what you are looking for (ie a change in behavior.) Speaking out probably won’t either – at least not immediately. But if it happens on multiple occasions, it might just move the needle.

    I like Allison’s wording – there is no ambiguity but doesn’t have the autocratic ring of an ultimatum.

  29. RJ*

    I pushed back heavily on a company I had two phone/Zoom interviews with a few weeks back because of comments said that led me to feel they weren’t taking the fact that COVID-19 had changed the workplace, most of all the returning workplace. It’s hard to push back and I’ve had issues with doing so in the past, but not anymore. Good advice from Alison and you will learn OP.

  30. Librarian in waiting*

    I had an interview this week. No one was wearing masks full time. Only if approached by a mask wearer did the employees attempt to wear a mask (albeit under the nose) The hiring manager walked out with the previous interviewer-neither wore masks. The manager did put a mask on when she saw I was wearing one. I told her that I had left my previous job because they weren’t taking safety seriously and I could tell this would not be a good fit, and thanked her for being willing to meet with me. If there were so many red flags in the 25 minutes I was waiting, there is no way that I could instigate enough culture change for me to feel safe working.

    1. Lizzo*

      Bravo!!!! I applaud you for this! I hope you find a new job soon that is a better fit.

  31. Lemon Meringue Pie*

    If anyone offers you an in person interview right now surely that alone tells you all you need to know?

    I’m sorry but I don’t think they’ll care about your ultimatum.

    1. Lemon Meringue Pie*

      Also, please don’t say you’re high-risk unless it’s true.

      Those of us who are actually high-risk don’t / can’t go to interviews and it’s not helpful to imply we do.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Wow. Alison supplied 3 options in one place for people who are looking for a script when they find themselves in an unsafe situation and clearly says this isn’t just job interviews: “it happens in all sorts of other situations too.”
        Others in this commenting section have talked about getting to a very very crowded medical appointment, just for one example.

  32. Arctic*

    Really, they shouldn’t even be making you come in for an interview. I am a huge believer that remote/Skype/Zoom whatever is just not the same as in person. But it’s a pandemic.

    And, yes, many many jobs can’t be done remotely and this is likely one. So, OP would have to come in anyway if she got it. But it’s about minimizing risk not eliminating it. And I think sick people are more likely to show up for an interview than work.

  33. The One True Church of Ecucatholicism*

    COVID-19 stuff aside, I like what Alison said about “being ready to make a scene”. I know it does not come easy to me. Just last week I made a comment here on AAM, which I’ll take the liberty of repeating because I’m lazy: “When I was a tender college student, I was at a supermarket and some old drunk guy walked past me and grabbed a feel of my crotch. Theoretically, I should have immediately shouted “Pervert! Call the police!” and maybe even thrown a punch. But in reality, I was dumbfounded – what just happened?! The guy was out the door by the time I began to consider making an issue of it. I just don’t walk around on a hair trigger, ready to yell and fight and call the cops. “

    For better or worse, this was not a learning experience for me, I did not develop a hair trigger reflex. I’ve managed to live my life mostly in environments where I didn’t *need* such a thing. But it’s a good idea to be prepared if it’s ever needed. I have a software background, I think of it as constructing a ‘macro’. Step 1 is “make a loud sound”, ie “HEY!!!” as loud as possible, loud enough to get nearby people to look and wonder what is going on. Step 2 is to “call out the bad guy” (if there is one): point at them and shout “THIEF!!!” (or “PERVERT!!!” or whatever). YMMV on all of this stuff, I can’t claim any kind of expertise. Except that it helps to have a vague plan.

    1. BookishMiss*

      I’m so sorry that happened to you, and please know that your response was normal and kept you safe.

  34. MsChanandlerBong*

    Alison, you’re one cool cat. I wish AAM had existed when I was in my early twenties. I really think I could have avoided some big mistakes if your advice had been around back then! I come from a family of people whose approach to life could best be summed up as “Whatever s*** they shovel at you, you just have to take it.” Someone who leaves a job after five years is a “job hopper,” according to my mother, because she thinks you just have to get a job and keep it until you’re dead. Doesn’t matter if they treat you badly, you could double your salary elsewhere, or what have you–just don’t rock the boat, and make sure you do whatever they tell you to do. So needless to say, I was not at ALL assertive or able to set appropriate professional boundaries when I was younger. I would have never spoken up about this in the moment, either.

  35. schnauzerfan*

    I’m not one to make a scene. I envy anyone who can make a righteous scene in a good cause. But, I’m good at standing up for what is right. Calmly with dignity… But it really helps to have a plan. “What if x happens?” “how will I handle it” So you have a plan for how to handle the job offer. Alison gave you some great scripts. Before the next interview. Have a plan. When they call, ask what you need to be aware of before you come in. Are mask required? Are you social distancing? If they say no, say “Thanks but no” to the interview (this is assuming you don’t NEED the work) When you get there, be prepared to, in the nicest way possible to point out that someone’s mask has slipped, to move away from sociable Sally. Be ready to deflect a handshake, of god forbid a hug or kiss on the cheek if you live where that is a thing that happens. You might even practice with you shelter in place buddy if you have one. It really does help to anticipate what terrible thing oblivious people might do and have your response in mind.

  36. Aquawoman*

    “Be one of those people” is cross-stitch-worthy. That’s what I aspire to is to be one of those people. It comes a little more naturally for me with the autism, because what are you talking about, the emperor is naked?! Not always. But if we’re all “one of those people,” stuff gets done.

    1. Sled Dog Mama*

      I’m trying to get over my bystander effect. Just this weekend I was driving down the interstate and passed a vehicle pulled on to the shoulder with a person sitting in the rear (it was an SUV with the rear hatch open) who appeared to be filming traffic. I thought “That’s strange and unsafe. I hope the police stop and check that out. Wait, I should TELL the the police.” So I called.

      I will admit that the person could have been doing something totally innocent but I could not come up with a good reason to be sitting at the side of the interstate (particularly in this location where the shoulder was narrow) in the back of an SUV holding up a cell phone in the “I’m filming” position.

    2. Meepmeep*

      Autism really does make this sort of thing easier. I know there is such a thing as a “social contract”, and I know how to abide by it, but breaking it doesn’t hurt me the same way as it would hurt a neurotypical person, I think.

      I did my share of activism, and I was a lot less fazed by breaking the social contract than my fellow volunteers.

    3. Environmental Compliance*

      I’m very tempted to draft up a colorwork version for a knit dish towel or something.

  37. Justin*

    This is all very smart (and shameful that they did so) but can we get this backstory on Alison’s job?

  38. Temp Anon*

    As someone who was a pretty hardcore activist in my 20’s (I stopped counting Civil Disobedience arrests after 20) I congratulate Alison on her history with it and agree that it’s good training to speak out.

    And I REALLY want to see pictures of Alison disrupting events dressed as a giant chicken!

  39. ReadyNPC3*

    I know this contrary to the great advice of speaking up more and standing up for yourself but I am exhausted of having to “be less polite and start being real”. Why can’t more people take a moment and think about the ramifications of their actions and how it effects others. I get joy out of being polite and I’m tired of having to change my behavior for the worst sometimes. Okay, rant over.

    1. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

      People don’t care about others, the pandemic has really brought that home. I don’t enjoy having to be borderline rude, but it’s just unavoidable now.

    2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Maybe channel Miss Manners: she would say things like “Please back up, we’re supposed to social distance” or, if someone sits down next to you, you can get up while saying “Excuse me, I need more space here.” That way, you’re not changing your behavior for the worse, you’re letting the other person have the chair they want.

      You don’t have to imply “why aren’t you doing this already, you idiot,” you can say “I’m being especially careful because I’d like to be able to see my elderly mother again.” That gives them the out of “well, I guess she has a reason” because even the “it’s not serious” contingent realizes that it is serious for people in their 80s.

    3. JessicaTate*

      I understand your sentiment. It is extremely frustrating that some people are being so self-centered, inconsiderate, and impolite by not taking basic precautions to try and protect others from themselves. Like you, I am exhausted with this behavior and self-centered, “I don’t care about the health of other humans if it means I have to give up a little bit of comfort or something I want to do” attitude in general.

      So, I guess I’m trying to think of it less as me having to be impolite, but that I am reacting politely to THEM being impolite (to put it mildly). I like all of Alison’s scripts because they can be delivered very politely. If it is not impolite to ask, “Can I have that salad without walnuts? I’m allergic,” then it’s also not impolite to ask, “Could you adjust your mask to cover your nose? I’m trying to be very careful.”

  40. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    I agree that being able to cause a scene is a great skill. I have done so on many an occasion. I’ve also heard loved ones telling me to “stop it, everyone is watching you” more times than is good for me.

    1. Lizzo*

      LOL–I was giving my parents heck at the start of the pandemic for not taking things as seriously as they should. My mother said, “All of my friends have at least one child who is behaving like this, lecturing their parents about the pandemic; you are that child.”

      I have never been more proud of myself. :-D

    2. littlelizard*

      My family values being like other people a lot, despite paying lip service to they idea of “you define your life”. There’s been a lot of “why are your nails that color” and “what are you wearing” and “does anyone else have hair like that?” and it’s just…exhausting.

  41. Greige*

    If you want to learn how not to care that you’re making a scene, develop food allergies (or probably any invisible disability that requires accommodations.) I agree it’s difficult! It takes a lot of re-training to ignore others’ nonchalance and put it into perspective. Honestly, you feel like the jerk, but you have to be ok with that. You are asking for a minor inconvenience; they are asking to risk your life.

  42. JustSayin'*

    FYI on sneezing – the proper protocol for sneezing is as follows: 1) sneeze into tissue, 2) dispose tissue properly, and 3) wash/sanitize hands.

    Sneezing into your elbow and going around with a germy elbow the rest of the day (and getting old germs on your face the next time you sneeze) is for those circumstances when you don’t have access to a tissue. It’s not the first choice – it’s the “better than nothing” choice.

    This is the info the CDC first put out. For some reason, it fell by the wayside – maybe not enough tissues, or they think we’re not smart enough to carry tissues?

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Or maybe they saw my family sneeze…tissues fly into pieces. Seriously, out on a hike we split up and I could be heard 150 yards away across a meadow. I happily sneeze inside my mask, and change it off. Washable, for the win.

    2. DynamiteDuo*

      Why would you be worried about getting old germs on your face when your face was where the germs came from? Are you at risk of infecting yourself even more?

  43. ThePear8*

    If the company “reassured me” that they “were all Carbon monoxide poisoned that day and were horrified” I might have some even bigger concerns haha

  44. Veryanon*

    I’ve about hit my limit with people not taking the mask thing seriously. Wear the mask. It goes over your mouth AND nose. This is just not that difficult. I work in HR, and if one more employee complains to me about having to wear a mask at the office (our office is in a state that requires it), I may do something…not nice.

    1. pancakes*

      You could try answering along the lines, “If you’re hoping I’ll excuse you from it I want to remind that this isn’t a rule I’ve imposed to punish you; it’s a state rule and it’s for everyone’s safety.” A bit prickly, maybe, but it’s a silly complaint on their part.

  45. Persephone Underground*

    A big thing to keep in mind is to be kind to yourself about your in-the-moment response. You won’t always know what to say, and that’s fine! A corollary to that is to remember that addressing something after the fact is perfectly normal, and you definitely should follow up on something health or safety related, regardless of whether “the moment has passed” or not.

    So many people think that you can’t go back and address something later because that’s making a big deal out of it, but more often than not it’s better to follow up if something is still bothering you afterwards. It takes a lot of pressure off the immediate response to be perfect too, and gives you time and space to think.

  46. NowandGen*

    I just want to add to what Alison said about making scenes as an activist allowing her to speak up now without fear. When I was in highschool, I used to hate giving presentations, until I had to start doing them all in French. After that, the English presentations suddenly seemed so easy. I think forcing yourself to do extreme versions of the things you are afraid of, helps to put everything else into perspective and allows you to gain more confidence when you have to stand up for yourself (or do anything else that seems scary).

  47. BigRedGum*

    it’s been weird at my work too. my team is small and sometimes we still have to go into the building. the majority of people are wearing masks. but my coworker went to West Virginia for a wedding, and instead of staying home for 14 days like we are supposed to, he showed up at work!!! I asked him about it and he is FURIOUS with me. even blocked me on social media LOL. I refuse to give a pass to people who flaunt the rules.

  48. littlelizard*

    Activism really does help find your own voice. The first time I went to a protest a few years ago, it felt scary and weird to be out in public yelling slogans and marching, but it felt like I was really *living* in a way I normally don’t. Same thing with a recent BLM protest in my area. It really reinforces the idea that it’s ok to just…do things. People just Exist and say their opinions and it’s okay for me to do it too.

  49. Bob*

    I don’t know if your state has any covid requirements but the fact they work in a healthcare related field could be extremely worrying.
    You can also drop an anonymous note to your local or national media. Make sure your being very anonymous if you don’t want your name splashed on the news, which is an art in itself, how to be anonymous. So don’t mention your interview if you go this route.

    Nothing you can say to them will change them. They seem to not care about covid and directives like these typically come from the top. And the higher up you are the less willing you can become to listen to employees (or reality). This tendency extends far, far beyond covid and is perhaps the founding principle of the comic Dilbert (which predates covid by decades).

  50. CastIrony*

    1) I want an activist job because of reason s.

    2) People wearing masks but NOT COVERING THEIR NOSE is my personal pet peeve. I just do my part and already gave up hope on the people in my town because they are like this.

  51. Ginar369*

    If you were to come into my office you would probably be worried too. But all of us have been working from home for months. Only 2 people came in every day. Only two are married and everyone else (myself included) are single living alone. But where we differ from most offices is everyone has their own office. There isn’t a single employee that doesn’t have an actual office space to themselves. So we don’t wear masks in the office. Each of our offices are big enough that two people can be in them and still leave 6 feet between them. We have posted signs on the doors that visitors must wear masks and when someone does come in I put on a mask since I have a front facing office and deliveries and visitors come to me first.

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