I didn’t get too many, but there were a few responses to the email I sent the other day that were- let’s use the word “cranky.”
And truthfully, as much as the pandemic has worn me out, it’s what I dealt with Friday night and Saturday morning in the inbox that really made me want to throw in the towel. More than being all but closed for fourteen months, and more than wondering if the PPP loan would come through- even more than the mornings early on in the pandemic when we didn’t understand COVID at all and I woke up with a headache or a scratchy throat that made me pause, wide-eyed and wondering what would happen to Feast and the people who work here if that scratchy throat meant I had gotten it.
I didn’t delude myself into thinking this was all over when we reopened the dining room, nor when the CDC proclaimed masks unnecessary for the vaccinated. But I hadn’t foreseen the spot between my new rock and hard place: no matter what I do, I’m going to make someone angry, which on one level is part of living among other humans, who are both my favorite and least favorite animal. On another level, I’m swimming in resentment. I got an email from Tom, for example, that said this, in its entirety:
“Done with you for all that you’re saying. I’ve put on my mask I’ve been vaccinated and now you want to move the goal posts. You want to protect others and that’s nice, but please don’t attack everyone else with your particular view point. Best of luck in the future but it won’t include me”
And I have to say, I was pissed. Here I am in a spot where I have guests who are fully vaccinated and still uncomfortable sitting down in our dining room, even if they’re spaced a healthy six feet-plus apart, to the point where they won’t come in for dinner, and so in an effort to create a certain level of comfort, I ask our guests to don a mask to and from the table, or if they get up to use the restroom, or go to squint at the back bar to pick a new whiskey or the like. I’m vaccinated, and I feel safe and comfortable, but I understand those who don’t, and I don’t regard it as an imposition of any gravity to put on a mask for the 45 seconds it takes me to walk to the bathroom. I think of it as a responsibility in exchange for a privilege: if I want to reap the benefits of living among other people and not having to hunt and gather to eke out my own subsistence, I have to realize that some of the people I rely on have other wants, needs and beliefs that I need to respect. I wrote back to Tom to explain the fact that my business hinges on making the maximum number of people feel comfortable, and he hasn’t replied, nor, if he’s like most of the people I’ve written back over disagreements, will he. He’ll just stop coming to Feast.
I feel fortunate that he at least wished me luck and said it was nice that I wanted to protect people, but it misses the point of just being respectful to people with a minimum of effort. I was angry with him for not being willing to wear a mask for what would likely be less than a minute or two of his visit to Feast. It was at this point, however, that I realized I have to keep my own side of the street clean: If I’m going to talk the talk of being respectful to others, I should be prepared to walk the walk. And when I wrote what I wrote in the email I sent out to everyone the other day, Here’s how I phrased it:
“To the person who’ll undoubtedly say that I have no business enforcing mask-wearing: shut up. I’m running a business that depends on people feeling comfortable enough to come in, sit down and dine, maskless, for a couple of hours. I have to make sure that my catering to your personal freedom of not wearing a mask doesn’t drive away other guests, and until that day comes, you’re welcome to take out, but you’re not welcome to make my other guests uncomfortable. I’m not enforcing masking to infringe on your freedom; I’m doing it to make what few guests I have feel comfortable enough to come in and spend their hard-earned money here. And if it’s personal freedom you value, then you’ll respect my personal freedom to run my business in a way that allows me enough customers not to have to close my doors.”
So while I thought I was driving home the point that I’m in an incredibly awkward spot after having spent the past fourteen months in a series of incredibly awkward spots, I have to admit it: I was a jerk. I can’t go around telling everyone else to be nice to someone you disagree with if I can’t do the same. So to Tom, if you even still get these emails: I apologize. I didn’t need to phrase it that way, and I clearly touched a nerve, enough for you to say that you won’t be in again. I went for the low-hanging fruit of the cheap laugh to just say shut up and go on about my business, and you have every right to think I’m an ass for being dismissive of you and what you believe.
That said, I have no intention of changing what we’re doing here, because I have far more guests who’ve indicated that they don’t regard this as a moving of goalposts, but rather as politeness and civility to their fellow Tucsonans, and that wearing a mask for a few fleeting moments is to them simply civility, not an outrage. So eat where you will, Tom, and everyone else who thinks that what we’re asking is unreasonable, and know that I’m sorry to see you go. It will hurt our business. It will mean that it takes us that much longer to make up for fourteen months of truly severe economic and psychological damage.
I certainly don’t relish telling people who’ve eaten here and supported us for years to like it or lump it, especially after dipping dramatically into the red over the past year, but I also find that I’ve lost more than a little patience. I’m resentful, as much toward fate as I am toward any one person- I don’t like that the CDC, with a proclamation that takes thirty seconds to relate, has dropped into the laps of business owners and employees across the country the conundrum of potentially losing half their business by offending someone on the opposite side of the political aisle, and I really don’t like that people are so incensed over the idea of wearing a mask for a few minutes that they’re willing to abandon their support of businesses they’ve supported for years. As I mentioned to someone just yesterday, regardless of the fact that we’ve finally reopened, we’ll be bobbing in the ripples of this pandemic for months, if not years. I’m supremely angry over it all, because when we hung out our shingle, all we wanted to do was make good food for people who liked to eat good food. Now I’m on the hook for a moral stand, and one that pretty much half the people in the country will disagree with, no matter what that moral stand is. So I’ll cross my fingers now, and hope that the half who appreciate that we’re still keeping masks on here for the time being will keep us afloat until such time as the masks fall by the wayside, people forget how angry they were, and somewhere deep in their hippocampus, they remember the pleasure afforded by a bite of lobster bread pudding, or an Exploradora, and they wonder why they haven’t been here in so long. And as long as they’re not yelling at us, I’ll welcome them back and hope to feed their bellies and their souls.
So here it is: we won’t back down on what we’re doing or why we’re doing it, but we’ll do it with as little snark as we’re able. My apologies, Tom.
I’ll toss in a link to the menu here,
as well as a reminder that for one more week, through the 23rd, you can still get the Pandemic Wine and Spirits Discount, i.e., 15% off any twelve bottles, mix and match. And here are those beverages, in case you’re curious:
I hope you all have a grand Sunday, even if you’re done with me. And I’ll try to be more patient.