I didn’t realize my blood and bones were next

We are a society that more or less only cares about ourselves and no one else

Covid is over! If you want it. You just have to treat it like I do any problem in my personal life and pretend it doesn’t exist then lash out at anyone who suggests otherwise. It’s the perfect plan.

As more states have begun the process of ~~opening back up~~ I was curious how it’s going for the service workers who have to risk their lives so we can pretend everything is normal again. A dozen or so of them from around the country — waiters, salon and retail workers, librarians and others — told me how they feel and how customers have been treating them which you can read below.

Before that though: I sent this Hell World out to paid-subscribers only yesterday and it got such a good reaction I decided to open it up for everyone due to it’s important imo. It’s been a year and a half but I still haven’t figured out how to balance the paid-only with free content here so forgive me please I’m an immense business dunce. I’d still like you to chip in if you haven’t yet though because this shit doesn’t get written for free.

If you didn’t read it maybe read that one before you read this one. It’s an interview with Linda Tirado a journalist who had her eye shot out and was blinded by cops while covering the uprising in Minneapolis.


Ok here are the stories from service industry workers. If for some weird reason you find yourself in need of going to a weird sidewalk restaurant that fucking sucks… don’t. But if you still do then please please please treat the workers kindly and tip out of your ass.

Nobody is concerned with sanitation procedures at the restaurant in Milwaukee I work at. If anything, they find them annoying. We have a touchless payment system where customers can pay on their phones and a few of my tables seemed bothered by it. Also no one is using hand sanitizer other than the staff.


Most people are very considerate in the neighborhood coffee shop I work at in Pittsburgh. No one seems to care about social distancing in practice though. Also people reflexively lean around the sneeze guard-style shields so they’re basically useless. We reopened a week and change ago, although we’d been doing contactless pickup through quar. It’s been mostly slow, which is good, but when it gets busy it can be really overwhelming in ways it never was before. Most people are good to us and understand where we’re at, but there’s still a few clowns everyday who wanna try to educate us about how this is all made up and the masks don’t matter or whatever. 


I went in for a shift on Thursday which was a very rainy day and we still had people come in to sit on the patio for reservations at my restaurant in Boston. The guests weren’t taking to the guidelines seriously, like they couldn’t wait to get their masks off. There were a few people who didn’t have masks at all. I live with someone who is immunocompromised and I kind of freaked out to my general manager and he tried to talk me down and was basically saying the pandemic is over and that I would be fine. I completely freaked out at him at this point because he’s basically saying it’s worth it if a family member of mine dies so that a couple Karens can drink wine on our rainy patio. 

I left and they said they’ll call me in a few weeks. I know not everyone can afford to tell their boss to fuck off right now and honestly I’m not sure if I can either. I’m also not sure if I’ll ever go back.

It feels like a disaster movie in real time. I couldn’t believe what my manager was saying. I was like there are 1,800 new cases in Florida today and he acted like that’s a Florida problem not a Massachusetts problem.

There were just three of us working that day and one of them already contracted covid lol and the other said she’s basically double quarantining when she’s not at work now. They’re both single people who live alone. I was the only one who said anything. 

I made a joke to someone before the shift about how the machine of capitalism runs on blood and bones and, like, I didn’t realize my blood and bones were next.



I work at a salon in Oklahoma City.  People are pissed they have to wear masks and they are tipping less than normal. I'm going to get sick and not be able to afford it because Karen wants her butthole waxed. 

It's the middle of Trump country. They think it's a conspiracy theory and they're worried about us wearing masks because the think we're going to get CO2 poisoning, and then they tip us a dollar after their Brazilian. 

I'm actually making about 20% less than I usually do on my checks. But we're in phase 3 reopening in our state, even though people are dying all around us. The governor is a fucking idiot who doesn't vote and has no political experience. 

I had a client who complained about the mask requirement and the covid precautions we are required to take. She was worried BLM protesters were going to come in and rape her during her service at 11 in the morning. How does one respond to that level of hysteria?


I'm not a service industry worker but my sister and her roommate are. They're in Iowa, where bars reopened a couple weeks ago. Her roommate is a bartender. Earlier this week a man came into her bar and announced he has an active covid case, effectively clearing out the bar. Now that bar is closed for two weeks and my sister is out of work until she can get tested. In short, people are acting shitty and I'm scared for my friends and family who have to deal with them.


Today is my fourth day back at a neighborhood restaurant in Ohio and people who have been coming out mostly think everything about covid was a hoax. Some are just bored and need somewhere to go. Overall it’s a strange vibe. It feels like it’s not gonna last for some reason.

I don’t feel comfortable seeing any loved ones because of how chill the guests are about the risk. I’ve seen two masks in four days. All the employees are masked up though. We have to wear masks while guests are in the building, they aren't required to wear any, and we have 60% capacity. 

Other than the masks, I’ve had my temp checked once. It’s the same job that it was before this all started. The guests are taking it super chill, to the point where they always ask us to take our masks off while we serve them — we don’t — and freak out when we tell them we can’t leave their water on the tables anymore etc. It’s in a richer white area in my city. It just feels like because of how relaxed the customers are that it’s not gonna last all summer. A little more than half of them are above 45 too. Young people are coming in but it’s plenty of older folks who should care a little more.  

Honestly I’m still waiting to see what happens from these protests, and we still won’t know until Thursday or Friday the real spike in cases. Also the re-opening phase 2 all starts at the start of next month so we will see. I can’t tell if the scientists blew this out of proportion or not yet. That’s where I’m at. Still just kinda watching it unfold. 

I work for the public library system in Tulsa. My location is the largest and right next to the BOK Center [where Trump’s rally will be held]. I'm fairly sure we were the first place in town to close in response to the pandemic and are one of the last to reopen. 

The library has been doing curbside pick up for books for the last few weeks, and that usually entails staff screaming at people to stay six feet away and follow directions, and snide comments from men like “You know masks don't work.”

I put in my two weeks notice early this week because they are reopening for “express service” next week and I don't want to deal with policing customer behavior all day. They will be enforcing how many people congregate in areas and expecting staff to tick off how many people are there throughout the day, telling people to wait outside, offering free masks, but they will not be enforcing mask use. 

I think libraries are uniquely challenging to reopen. People are used to spending the entire day at the library, getting in depth assistance on computers when they can barely type or even read, as well as crossing boundaries and personal space of staff. I really feel for the homeless who don't have anywhere to go in the heat of the day, and I don't think it's hyperbole to say that all of my coworkers do as well and try our best to assist them. I actually worry less about their reaction to changes and limiting their time in the library.

This is kind of a separate issue but I can see it resurfacing as we are in Oklahoma, or maybe I'm just traumatized, but we were targeted by 1st and 2nd amendment freedom fighters in the past that were disputing the library’s authority to enforce “no filming of the public” and “no weapons.” They would show up and livestream as they walked around the library and be confrontational with our mostly Black security team. Then their supporters flooded our phone lines and left negative reviews of the library like “ONE STAR! does this library not carry a copy of the CONSTITUTION???” and made racist comments on their YouTube videos about the incidents. I can totally see these people coming back to dispute enforcing how many people can be in the library at a time.

Also Tulsa County recorded the highest number of new cases yesterday. I used to see people wearing masks in public and that number is dwindling each day.

I live about two miles from where the Trump rally is going to be, on the north side, which is where most of the Black population lives. Black Wall St./Greenwood is nearby. I'm fearful for a couple of reasons. One being our transmission rate is going up and we are going to be flooded with covid deniers. I think of all of the talk of “outside agitators” with the protests, but racists are going to come from all over to go to this rally. Black leaders in town are discouraging protesting the rally for fear of violence and I feel that. A year ago I think we would have had a lot of people protesting it, but I think there will not be that presence here this time.


I work at a coffee shop in Toronto. We reopened just over a month ago. At first people were doing really well about wearing masks, maintaining distance, and observing our one customer capacity, but every week people care less and less.

It feels like people are treating it like a New Year’s resolution diet. They were trying really hard for two weeks, slipped a little bit towards the end of the month, and will give up when they don’t see immediate results.

My bosses are great, and have taken a lot of steps for us, and most customers are great, but I still have to explain the situation to every, like, third or fourth customer. At this point I’m mostly just trying to get as much money stashed away as I can for when a second wave hits, in case we shut down again. The first few weeks we were back everyone was super generous with tips, showing appreciation for us being open again. At this point I feel like it’s kind of back to where it was, where most people aren’t tipping, but the people that do are tipping more than they were.

I’m worried that people are going to start acting as though it happened, we came together as Canadians and solved it, and now it’s business as usual as. As soon as it got warm out the parks all filled up with young people in huge crowds who were actively ignoring any kind of  distancing rules because they’ve chosen not to worry. Most young people in this city live in small, expensive condos, and I think trying to convince them to stay inside and away from folks when it gets nice out is just a losing battle, and the city doesn’t seem like it’s doing enough to help give them space to be outside.


After three months of being a waste of a human due to this shit I went back to work.  I’m the director of a few properties throughout Massachusetts. It’s my first week back and there’s already a covid positive at one of the them. I worked side by side with this person for two days, listening to him cough in his mask. I told the chef he needed to address it. It wasn’t.

We closed again and I’m in quarantine as a precaution. The industry is fucked. I’m feeling pretty negative right now, and trying real hard not to be. My biggest concern is our undocumented hourlies. We take temps and have them fill out all the paperwork, but there’s zero chance they’re gonna go home instead of making a paycheck. There’s no unemployment available for them.  I don’t blame them but it’s gonna put us all in jeopardy. These are some of my favorite humans and friends. We’ve done what we can to help them through this shit time. It’s an unfortunate and frightening reality of what’s to come.

Some of our locations have been successful with takeout. A handful have opened for patio business and have gotten very creative, making a profit.  We have to reopen. I guess it’s our decision if we want to work in that environment. I still want to. It’s what I do. The life threatening aspect is a fun new twist.


I work at a restaurant in Cleveland. It’s been alright, but I’ve already noticed a decline in tips and people generally just back to their entitled antics. When I first started back we were doing takeout only,  but we opened for dine-in a couple of weeks ago. Between this and the protests and everything happening people have not been as understanding or respectful as you’d hope, although expecting anything is a mistake to be sure. The state handed down no real safety procedures, so everything from masks to keeping everything six feet apart has come down to us.

We’re required to wear masks and gloves but our owner doesn’t want to ask the customers to do anything, so there’s no requirements for the patrons at our place, just the workers unfortunately.

Right now I’m basically a host, back runner, expo, and an occasional bartender. Doing a little bit of everything. The Uber Eats and DoorDash are still nonstop, which has created the need for almost a new position, but unfortunately we don’t get tipped off that so no one is volunteering for that. 

The thing that’s definitely driving me the most insane so far is how many people come in and then are absolutely appalled other people have the nerve to be at our restaurant as well. People come in with no masks and crowd around my host stand and then I get freaked out and then they’re mad because “they don’t feel safe.”

There’s a lot of pressure being put on us low wage employees to do our jobs and then make people “feel good about being out.” 

We should have stayed doing takeout only as far as I’m concerned. It’s also insane because none of our managers feel “safe” coming back yet, so we also don’t have that support in place. Hourly employees have been left to do all the heavy lifting while they sit at home. Or they love to breeze in for like an hour a week and they just sit up in the office and “work.”  Since reopening we have also had to deal with major turnover. Mostly the only people working are those of us who got fucked from unemployment and literally have no choice so none of us are feeling great about it either. 

I work at a coffee shop that has been open throughout. We shifted to online order/no contact pickup. Customers have actually been amazing the whole time, but I attribute that to small town regulars.  New Hampshire reopening is going to coincide directly with the tourism season starting — weird coincidence! — where a bunch of, shall we say, less friendly Massachusetts vacationers from a hot spot state will be infiltrating us, which is wildly stressful.

One lady did throw a nutty because we asked her to wear a mask for two minutes while ordering because she was “so sick of wearing a mask,” as if every employee she has encountered for the last four months hasn't been wearing uncomfortable masks eight hours a day to keep her ungrateful ass safe. That was a great microcosm of how much Karens expect others to sacrifice on their behalf and how little they will sacrifice on their end.  It's almost like creating a permanent underclass out of an entire industry, then having 99% of politicians openly and vocally deny them livable wages has created some sort of disdain towards then or something. Weird!


The majority of people come into the restaurant in Colorado not wearing masks. No one seems to be worried about actual sanitary measures or social distancing. Mostly they want to tell you how stupid it all is, or ask how much wearing the mask all day sucks. There’s been an increase in hissyfits over perceived mistakes. But for the most part customers are acting the same. Some express anger at the new measures, some like to try to take a stand about not wearing a mask. Mostly every table wants to talk about it and know what we’re being told to do by corporate. 

The first week was the worst, workload wise, as the restaurant was phasing in returning employees as we can only run at about 20% capacity. So that small group, about 3-4 people at a given time in the front of the house, was essentially in charge of returning the restaurant to sit-in operations with the new sanitation measures. For the most part management has been ok, but it doesn't seem that they themselves are taking the risks that seriously. Only as much as they are being instructed to by corporate. They certainly were not worried about exhausting and further endangering that first returning group.

I am worried. I’m currently uninsured and a hospitalization would financially ruin me. Also I live with my brother, who has severe asthma, so while he is still working from home, I'm scared of infecting him. I would 100% not have gone back to work if I had the choice, but I was weary of unemployment fraud.


I genuinely thought our regulars at the taproom — 45+ white, semi-rural — would suck, but they’ve been super cool about respecting distance and bussing their own glassware. Tips have been solid. We’re just outside of Portland… We’re kind of a destination spot until Portland reopens. We don’t require masks for customers, but all the employees wear them. The main rules are respect distance and bus your own tables. We have spray bottles of isopropyl that we’re constantly using to sanitize. We moved tables into the parking lot to help spread everyone out. No bar seating. Ten person group limit. We have a sign system for customers to mark their table as dirty after they’ve cleared their mess so we can clean before anyone else sits down.

On the looser side, but again, we’re mostly serving regulars that don’t want to fuck it up for anyone else.

And as I typed that I just got a message from the manager that people aren’t respecting distance well enough. So there that is.

I was scared at first. I’ve kinda resigned myself to the fact that this is the new normal for the next year at least so whatever happens, happens. It fucking sucks ass but I’m stuck. I’m six months away from hitting my 20% vesting (ESOP) and if it wasn’t for that I’d be long gone. At least I don’t have to worry about being pulled over because of my skin color.


It’s only been our third night, but has been going really well for us fortunately. Guests have been very accommodating, tipping well, and happy to get out of the house. I’m a sous chef in a restaurant that is part of a hotel [near Boston]. We have a patio out front, and the hotel let us use the terrace, which gives us about 75% of the capacity we had inside, although I feel the front patio has more tables than it should. Once full, there’s not really six feet apart on some. 

Our takeout only phase was dreadfully slow, but this weekend we were packed solid for dinner, and a decent brunch service.

The guests have all been good it seems. At a glance they all appeared jovial, and the tip totals look good. Haven’t heard anything from servers about any jerks.

Am I scared? A little. As far as COVID protocols, I don’t see a lot of handwashing, or trying to maintain distance where possible in the FOH. It’s kinda tricky but I would like to see more effort there. I do hound the BOH staff though, and the chef when he leads a bad example.

I would have liked the owner to have been more equitable with the PPP loan as far as FOH and BOH went. Servers were on a pretty good salary while only working about 25 hours, about $40 per hour, which is quite a lot more than when things were flush. The BOH was only hourly. I will have a cow if they don’t sort that out and get them off salary now. The owner said she only had enough $$$ for six weeks' payroll (before we opened the front) so that raises a big question since it is intended for two months at least. I’m especially concerned about the livelihoods of the kitchen crew. 80% of them weren’t able to collect any benefits throughout the closure. We just now have been able to get some of them back to full time. I do feel pretty optimistic that we can pull through, but if not...


I’m at a restaurant in Fairfield County Connecticut.  Just about every business here asks people to wear masks, as do we. So many people walk to the host stand with no mask. Once they get to the table there’s no masks. I’m not six feet from them when I serve and take orders. I wear a mask except to take a break.  People don’t understand more than five people at a table creates congestion and less distance from other tables. 

I’m not sure what the rules will be once indoor dining opens on the 17th.  The money is ok but not great right now. I got two weeks of hazard pay, but we worked our asses off. I don’t think we got any benefit from that because we had a crazy amount of tables and therefore got a volume of tips. It makes me angry that people spent zero time reflecting on humankind and working on themselves to care more for others while they were locked down.  We are a society that more or less only cares about ourselves and no one else.   


I’m a manager at a store in Hoboken, and as of our reopening last week, I have taken a leave of absence. First of all, I have two kids in elementary school who are still finishing online learning and haven’t heard back from any daycare service I have contacted. With the social distancing requirements at daycare centers, I would imagine all the places are at capacity with so many “non-essential” workers going back to work now. Never mind that I’m not comfortable sending my kids to daycare, they’re old enough to be concerned for their own safety, and I believe they would find it very hard and scary to wear a mask and be around others wearing masks. And they would worry about me being out in the world. They already worry when I go to the grocery store once every two weeks. I worry for their mental health. 

I myself have been wondering exactly what you are asking...What’s it like to be back to work in the service industry under these conditions? I pride myself on customer service, empowering women to feel good about themselves and in the clothes they buy. It’s an intimate relationship. Distance restrictions and mask wearing changes the game.

In mid-March, before things shut down, we had to implement new protocol in the stores: new, deeper cleaning procedures several times a day and social distancing with customers (which employees were simply unable to do). We closed off our bathrooms per company direction before the final shutdown. And here’s the thing: companies send emails to their customers saying  “we are open, smiling under our masks, deep cleaning, plexiglass up at the registers to protect you, touch-less pay, etc.” but the people on the ground, adhering to and, as managers, enforcing this protocol, we’re just regular-ass people. Most of us are working for a business that we don’t own, having never had to do this amount of cleaning, having never had to do our jobs in a way where it was a matter of life and death, which it very much is now. We are regular-ass, relatively low-information people. We’re not doctors or scientists. And we are now supposed to bring comfort to the minds of our customers that they are safe in our stores, as long as everyone is playing by the rules as they currently stand. There are so many factors that make this problematic.

My husband has a good job and can work from home indefinitely. My kids need comfort. I have loved working with the public, but all the things I love about it have changed because of covid. I’m not sure I have the fortitude to be the kind of encouraging, positive manager I have been for my employees. The idea of traveling by train to work each day, going through the motions at work, “making payroll”, interviewing and hiring, de-escalating customer issues, all of it, seems like living in a nightmare. I negotiated a too-high salary for myself when I took this job, and now, lol, it’s not nearly enough compensation in a pandemic.

They want me back ASAP, but with the leave of absence, I at least have bought myself some time until we can see how things develop within a few weeks of opening, BLM protesting, etc. I may extend my leave into July, we’ll see, but in the end I honestly might not return to work for another year. 

I have found during lockdown my life has started to open up into new directions, and I wonder if I may be one of the people that comes out the other side with a completely different career. I am fortunate that I have the freedom and financial stability to take the time to decide what I’m comfortable with.


I know for me the biggest fear is because I’m a newer business. We opened the cafe up in December and had to close in March. We were building momentum and showing promising signs. The pandemic halted our momentum big time. We haven’t seen hardly any of the regulars we had built up, despite lots of social media and the website informing people that we were opening back up. We started informing the public almost two weeks before that we be back. Some customers still don’t realize they are allowed to come in the store.

A few customers haven’t had masks, as required in the reopening plan, and have refused to leave and come back with one. So they just don’t purchase anything. 

I currently only employ four people and they are upbeat but worried. Glad to be working, but it’s tense. There’s a lot of conversation about what if we go back to shelter at home orders, and the social contact in general. Will the business survive is a big one as well. Mainly between me and my business partners. The employees look at it from the going back on unemployment view point. A big worry is also if the need to find another job does come, will there be jobs to have?


I’m conflicted about working at my restaurant in Boston now. It was nice to be “socializing” again, and our place is going above and beyond with precautionary measures.  We’re going out of our way to make guests feel safe.  But it’s a combination of feeling like we’re gonna get hit by wave two because of it, and those safety efforts just getting really old, really fast, that make me feel like I need to escape the service industry soon.

I was thanked many times last night for helping people feel like human beings again. One guy tipped me $150 on $150. It’s definitely strange seeing people want to be out right now, but people are grateful to exist and see others. I’d feel good about eating here, but elsewhere I’m not so sure I would simply because of human error. I trust my team, but I can’t be too sure about all teams at all restaurants ya know?