Oh, hey, didn’t see you there. I was too busy checking the back for the eighty-sixth time to be super extra doubly sure that we don’t have any hand sanitizer in the back. I had already checked eighty-five times prior, but each customer thinks I am a liar who wants their immune system to fail, so I checked again. Riot prevention from the *NSYNC reunion tour demographic is an essential part of the art of retail service.

What’s that? You’re worried about whether our stores are going to stay open? This is up to corporate America, so of course, they are. And you know who’s going to keep those stores open? Not the corporate Americans. The little minions they hire to stock shelves, run cash registers, and oh, you know, be the only people expected to physically show up at work during a global pandemic while everyone else is advised to work from home for their safety and the safety of others.

You may not make eye contact with us, you may whisper to your children that “this is why you should go to college” when I help lift heavy merchandise for you, you may verbally abuse us and almost always get away with it, and guess what? Because of cognitive dissonance, you’re also entitled to us risking our health during a disease outbreak because we’re the only ones who can do the job. It’s “unskilled” labor but if you had to actually find things in the store on your own without having anyone to ask you’d have an entitlement induced aneurysm.

Where are you going to get your bread? What about the medicine for your cough which you have no way of knowing if it’s from the coronavirus or not due to a shortage of testing? We can’t just close the stores. And the only people you can rely on to provide you with the goods you need in the cleanliest and the safest way possible are the people you call “dumb-ass shit unskilled laboring wastes of space” during the non-pandemic-stricken months of the year.

Since you believe we’re immune to feelings, it only makes sense that you believe we’re immune to the coronavirus, too.

Though if you hear an employee sneeze from allergies I’m sure corporate headquarters will field a call about that.

Sure, everyone is being encouraged to stay home unless they absolutely have to leave the house (and you absolutely need your almond butter, so you’re fine), but we are not just employees of the stores we work for, we are your humble servants. That’s why you don’t even have to address us with even the thinnest of social facades. No, “hi, can you tell me where—” no, just barge up to us and yell paper towels.

No, we don’t have any special training for assuring low rates of transmission from ourselves, customers, and from contact with our merchandise. We’re not experts in protecting ourselves, let alone you, our masters.

But what really, truly matters is that you think we’re capable of these things, just like you always think we’re complete worthless idiots, but also capable of magic at the same time. None in the back? MAKE IT APPEAR. CHECK IT AGAIN! IT WILL BE THERE THAT TIME.

Legend has it that once, just once, a retail employee was lying when they said there were no more “L.O.L. Surprise Dolls” in the back last Christmas, and when they checked a blonde woman named Linda was proven correct. That inspiring tale is why nevertheless, middle-aged white women persist in all of our faces.

Is keeping the stores open in the face of a rapidly spreading pandemic in the best interest of public health?

According to CEOs and a president who views the American economy as a personality trait, yes. And that, of course, is good enough for the lot of you, so it’s time to trust the people you legitimately trust the least to ensure your health in these trying times.

And no, Karen, those apple cider bath bombs won’t protect you from the coronavirus.