Sometimes I feel so stupid wearing a mask.
I already had a small box of them at home, purchased from a grocery store at some previous point when I was sick and not wanting to spread germs as I went places. Places where I got funny looks from everyone around me, all the people I was just trying to keep from getting sick.
But now I shouldn’t feel so self-conscious, right? For doing what everyone else is doing? All of us considerately wearing masks to help keep our germs to ourselves and possibly avoid others’ germs?
Except for the part where it sometimes feels like I’m the only one still doing this. Like last night, as I walked through a gauntlet of people, not a single one of which gave me a second glance but also not a single one of which was wearing a mask, or had one close at hand.
Since local restaurants have been able to offer curbside service, Lynn and I have been doing our small part to try to support our friends and neighbors, ordering probably twice as much restaurant food as we usually indulge in. (Not twice as much per meal, but in our weekly visitations. There’s no point in us gaining more weight than necessary.)
After last night, I’m not sure they need our assistance any longer, and I’m ready to scale back for a number of reasons.
Let’s start with how difficult it’s been. I mean, it’s about us getting food, yes, but the intent has been to offer tangible support — and so many of these places have made it far more difficult than it needs to be.
If nothing else, this virus should have made it plain to every business owner the importance of an on-line presence. I say this as the owner of a business where we could certainly polish our on-line look, but at least you can find our phone number, and our phone is always answered, even if it’s by a machine during hours we aren’t there.
Trying to find correct phone numbers, hours of operation and menus for Gunnison’s restaurants has been far more difficult than it ought to be. I’ve mentioned my efforts to patronize one restaurant, which has a different phone number than the one listed on-line and in the phone book and which has not answered my calls even when I’m standing in front of their door during hours they allege they are open.
What Lynn and I are learning is that we need to not have our hearts set on any one kind of food, or even any specific style of food.
Last night we started with the notion that we would like fish and chips from The Dive. Now, the owners have kept their website and social media up to date, and their website did not say they would be open Sunday night, but I had driven past earlier in the day and seen a patio (tables spaced at least six feet apart) full of diners, so we gave it a futile try. The phone rang and rang, not even picked up by a machine.
Next we turned our attempts to the House of China, which opened about a week ago. We picked up food there the second day they were open, but only after driving into town because they wouldn’t answer their phone. Once we placed our order we were told it would take an hour for our food to be ready, so we went home and I came back later, without a receipt we weren’t given, and nearly didn’t get food because the woman who had taken our money (with a rather large tip) just one hour before couldn’t recall if we had paid or not.
They didn’t answer their phone again last night, and I wasn’t willing to make multiple trips just to get a meal. So we tried the other Chinese restaurant, Double Dragon, even though we weren’t sure it has re-opened. First their phone was busy, then when I tried again no one answered.
Okay then, Mexican.
Once upon a time, of Gunnison’s 30-some restaurants, Lynn and I counted 11 Mexican eateries. That number has about halved, depending on whether you’d like to include Taco Bell. One of the two we like to patronize is the one that I’ve tried to shop at four times without success, so I’ve given up on them, at least for now, and the other we like to call “Katie’s Mexican” in honor of the restaurant that first occupied that location.
Katie’s Cookery did not serve Mexican food, but she had a killer corn chowder, and we’re still sad she gave up the iffy life of a restaurateur for a more reliable career in title work. So even though El Paraiso has been there a long time now and has its own clear identity, we still call it Katie’s Mexican.
Last night they answered the phone on the first ring. We had a winner, at last.
We ordered food from them early in their re-opening, when it was curbside only, and they had food ready within ten minutes and then brought it out to my car before I could even call to tell them I was outside. Those days are gone, and good for the restaurant and those willing to eat there. But for those of us who are still just sticking with curbside, it may be a place to avoid.
It is hardly El Paraiso’s fault that I felt stupid walking through their very crowded patio (where I’m not sure tables were six feet apart) as the only person wearing a mask. I get that you can’t eat with a mask on, but no one had them on, even those waiting for food or the family hanging outside the fence waiting to be seated.
All staff members were wearing masks, a couple of them gloved as well, but El Paraiso has this very tiny entryway, so I was pressed as close I could get to the counter as one masked and several unmasked patrons pushed past me on their way out. Leaning against the counter put me within a foot of the nearest of four people all trying to run credit cards at the same time.
They had an entire table of to-go bags, perhaps because they were the only restaurant in town answering their phone last night, and again that’s good for them, and it’s great they were so busy, but I didn’t enjoy my experience at all — especially once I got home and discovered they had put cheese on the food I requested be uncheesed.
It took 35 minutes after I placed my initial order before I got the call to come pick up, and I was so dispirited from my experience that I had no interest in going back down the highway to get replacement food. Over the phone they immediately offered me a free meal the next time I patronize them, but I just don’t see that happening soon.
Obviously lots of people are having far less heartburn over coronavirus than I am, unworried about how many people they might be around and unconcerned about the air they breathe, unfettered.
I’m not willing to embrace their carefree ways, especially not as people are starting to flood into the Gunnison Country from all over. Perhaps I should feel virtuous for this approach, but instead I usually just feel stupid, like I’m the last person to get the joke — the funny part being, I guess, that I care more about their health than they care about mine.