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Ask The Salty Waitress: My server isn’t wearing their face mask right. Can I ask them to fix it?

A waitress wearing a face mask chatting with customers at the terrace of a bar
Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio, Photo: Jesus Merida/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images
The Salty WaitressThe Salty WaitressSalty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.

Hi Salty,

In my state restaurants have reopened with distancing and mandatory face masks for servers and for diners until they sit down to dine.

Sometimes when the server comes their face mask is not worn correctly—usually with the nose or nostrils visible. This bothers me even though I took my mask off when I sat down. Perhaps I should mention that the only time I eat out these days is for Sunday brunch with a friend for whom these brunches are also the only time he dines at restaurants. The improperly worn masks don’t bother my friend as it does me, and he thinks it’s rude to ask them to correct their masks. I try to be polite about it and usually say something like, “Your mask has slipped down.”

Is there a better way to let the server know that their mask has slipped down or shall I try to ignore the improperly worn masks?

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Dear Eagle Eye,

Welcome back to the land of brunch! Can you even believe we’ve made it so many weeks without our precious overpriced eggs? You don’t mention whether you’re brunching on a patio or in the dining room, but in either case my advice would be the same, so let’s get right to it.

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As restaurants open back up and return to some Bizarro World version of business as usual, face masks are going to be a huge part of keeping both diners and servers safe, especially indoors. Dining out right now is a risk, plain and simple, sugar—if it weren’t, I wouldn’t have spent the last six months sewing all these damn homemade masks for extra scratch. I’m not even gonna pretend I know exactly how big or small a risk it is, but eating at a restaurant means that, on some level, you’re cool with an environment that you can’t fully control. And if you don’t like it, well then, you don’t ever have to go back.

But servers don’t have that choice. They’ve gotta come in day after day to make ends meet, and it’s a lot riskier for them than it is for you. Not only do they have to spend an entire shift in the enclosed dining room, but they’re serving tables full of customers who, depending on which state they’re in, aren’t required to mask up as the server approaches the table. (That’s a lot of invisible spittle droplets to dodge.) And sure, in a perfect world, all servers would wear their masks the right way 100% of the time, but—

No, wait a minute. A perfect world is one where none of this is happening. So, in a reality where nothing’s perfect, then a mask-wearer who’s managed to cover up their pie hole is (slightly) better than nothing.

You mention that you try to be all polite and subtle and say something like, “Your mask has slipped down.” Honey, you’re not pointing out a run in their pantyhose or a glob of lipstick on their teeth! They’re probably already aware that their nose is poking out, even if it’s not clear to you why that might be. But people in glass houses can’t throw stones, and a diner whose face is unmasked, catching the breeze, and full of half-chewed egg is probably not the person who should be pointing out mask violations.

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So, to answer your question, no, you don’t have to ignore improperly worn masks when you’re out at brunch. If you’re worried about it, the best thing to do is put your own mask on whenever the server stops by to check in on you and your skillet scramble. It might cue the server to cover their nose, but even if it doesn’t, you’ll still have a good layer of protection between you. And if you want to go as far as voicing your concerns to the server—to the utter embarrassment of your friend, it sounds like—this way you’ll be walking the walk by doing so from behind a mask yourself. Or you can always support your favorite restaurants by picking up takeout, leaving a good tip, and eating shortstacks out of foam containers with your friend in a nearby park.


Got a question about dining etiquette? Or just a general question about life we can help you with? Email us: salty@thetakeout.com.

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DISCUSSION

manpretty2
Manpretty2

As someone with about a dozen years in restaurants, currently working in one in a city that just went to 75% occupancy, this may be the first time I have really disagreed with Salty. And BOY HOWDY do I disagree.

What in the ever-loving hell Salty? Any server with their mask worn improperly should be IMMEDIATELY corrected. Eagle Eye sounds like they are being way more polite about it than I would be and I am generally Mr. GiveServersaBreakTheirJobSucksndandLifeIsHard.

I am an asthmatic who spend 8-12 hours in a hotass kitchen, and me and my staff are masked 99% of the time (1% is holding the mask out of the way to taste dishes/smell ingredients), so I do not have even an ounce of sympathy for anyone who complains about it being uncomfortable to wear a mask properly in a comfortable, air conditioned room or even outside anywhere.

Wearing a mask is an effective method that you can control for increasing the safety of humanity and reducing the impact of Covid. If you are anywhere near people, you absolutely MUST wear a mask, and if you don’t you are choosing your own comfort over the quite literal LIVES of others.