Last week (August 17) a story was reported in your paper about a hospitality staff member in our community having a drink thrown at them by a customer unwilling to comply with current coronavirus health directions. That staff member was me.
I wish to clarify a few things that were not correct in your front-page story, and offer some thoughts on the repercussions of pushing a divisive narrative.
It was reported that the gentleman in question was from metropolitan Melbourne. He was a resident of the Bass Coast. I wouldn’t have served him the beer I ended up wearing without first verifying his address as we have been instructed to do with every customer at the moment. It is the least favourite part of my job right now, but I assure you we’re doing it.
It was further reported that my employer’s social media post was in response to this particular incident, however, their plea to the public to conduct themselves with kindness and compliance was posted two days beforehand. The incident with this man last Sunday, whilst an extreme example of the types of behaviour we are dealing with, was far from an isolated occurrence. I had been working for less than two hours when this happened and this customer was probably the 20th person I had to ask to put his mask on. Every one of those people resided locally as well.
I don’t point this for the purpose of scolding our local community. The vast majority of people are absolutely doing the right thing. The outpouring of kindness and support I have received since last Sunday has been overwhelming. I feel incredibly lucky to live in a place so beautiful and filled with so many wonderful, kind, generous people.
I point it out because it is very easy to get caught up in this “us and them” mentality, especially with our state and country so divided at the moment. But this kind of toxic thinking doesn’t help anyone, and I believe it is very irresponsible to editorialise the facts of incidents like what happened to me to further push this narrative. We are all on the same side. None of us would survive out here without the tourism economy, and people in Melbourne are suffering the same frustrations that we are here. Likely more so given their tighter restrictions and extended lockdown. Hell, at least we can go to the beach.
What we need now more than ever is kindness, understanding, compassion and connection. As fatigued as I am by the phrase “we’re all in this together” it still rings true. Think about who you want to be if we ever see the other side of this. What do you want our community to look like? What sort of example do you want to set for your kids? Because I know what I want it to look like.
And to that point, to the gentleman in question, if you’re reading this, I get it. You’re exhausted. I am too. The day after this happened, I had to cancel my wedding. I’m over it. I miss my mum and dad, and my brother. We’re all going through it right now mate. So, when we are allowed to open up again, swallow your pride. Come back in and apologise to me for your behaviour because if you do, I’ll forgive you. I might even shout you a beer for your courage. Just make sure you check-in and have your mask on when you’re at the bar.