• John-Michael Scurio

Signs Of The Times

Updated: Jul 4

(Note: in the pictures used in this blog, it was intentional not to show service workers wearing masks, because this is how service workers prefer to serve. Please remember that. They don't like masks any more than you do.)

I didn't make the rules, but I have to follow them, and so do you, if you want service here.

1960s-70s

The hippy counterculture was originally a youth movement that began in the United States during the mid-1960s and spread to other countries around the world into the 1970s.


The word hippie came from hipster and was used to describe beatniks who moved into New York City's Greenwich Village and San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district. The term hippie first found popularity in San Francisco with Herb Caen, who was a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle.


Hippies created their own communities, listened to psychedelic music, embraced the sexual revolution, and many used drugs such as marijuana and LSD to explore altered states of consciousness. When hippies would come into private establishments unwashed and unkempt, this prompted change. It was not a matter of life and death, it was simply a change in our society that took place.

The sign of the times: "No Shirt. No Shoes. No Service."


1990s

Years ago, in college, I was a cater waiter. As a full time student, this was a really great side-hustle and it helped me live well in Boston, attend college, earn my bachelors degree and live on campus with my roommates and other friends (which was very expensive at the time.) This wasn't your typical waiter job in a restaurant, this job was on a harbor boat that would go out on a 3-hour tour around historic Boston Harbor for lobster clambake lunch cruise tours and evening sunset cruise tours. It was open to the general public of course.


Often, the entire boat would get booked by one of the Group Sales Managers. They would sell wedding tours, company parties, corporate meeting trips, family reunions, and other celebrations and gatherings. One time, we were serving at a high-end wedding reception for one of the Boston Bruins players and his new bride and their families/friends. These newlyweds went all out! Caviar, surf and turf, champagne, even fireworks over the boat as we passed the USS Constitution in the Harbor after the cut the cake. I'll never forget serving at that wedding. It was a magical night for them and their family.


At one point, one of the guests got verbally abusive with me after he lit up his cigarette inside the boat - where it was non-smoking. I asked him to head outside and up top where the smoking section was in the open air of the boat's top deck - this was the established smoking section. He immediately started to "go off" on me like I was a horrible person for asking him to follow this rule inside this business establishment where I was employed. The insults and name-calling were awful and I was beyond offended by this guy.


It was a simple ask on my part. It was a reasonable ask. I was doing my job. All I did was ask him to do the right thing and not smoke inside but instead to go upstairs and outside to the smoking section on the open-air deck. For a moment, it was intense with him.


That was until another guest at the wedding, a kind lady, that new this guy, came over, put her hand on his arm and said something that I have never forgotten since, she said, "Steven, to get good service, you have to be a good customer. Let's please go outside together so you can smoke and I want to see the harbor lights anyway." And up and out they went to the top deck of the boat.


Again, in this situation, it was not a matter of life and death, it was simply a change in our society that took place. (although, please be advised that the Surgeon General says that smoking does kill a human being after prolonged use.)

The sign of the times:

"We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."


2020

Every day, here in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, our tiny town of about 2500 unique residents, serves locals and visitors in all of the different independently owned business establishments. We have restaurants, bars, pubs, hotels, clubs, art galleries, coffee shops, antique stores, clothing and souvenir shops, food shops, guest houses, home goods stores, jewelry, action tours, specialty shops, ghost tours, bike tours, scooter rentals, tarot card readings, zip line tours, theatres, and much, much more...

She didn't make the rules

In 2020, there is a worldwide pandemic.


I think that bears repeating - in 2020, there is a worldwide pandemic.


The servers, bartenders, shopkeepers and others in jobs that earn a living by serving the public all across the world are putting themselves in harms way every day by leaving their home and going into their job to serve the general public.


In this day and age, in America, there is also massive political upheaval, racial division, police brutality, as well as a looming election. At a time when a change in society is a matter of life and death, Americans are wielding their "constitutional rights" around like a badge to defy a clerk, manager, receptionist, bartender, server, host or business owner who asks them to wear a mask for their own safety and for the safety of those around them.


We will change where we smoke cigarettes, and how we dress in restaurants and even shift from being barefoot at the pool to having shoes or sandals on when consuming food at lunch in the poolside cafe but we won't wear a mask during a worldwide pandemic when it IS a matter of life and death?


Every country in the world has been hit with Covid-19. Our country is the worst infected country in the world and we're still in the first wave of this virus. Because of behaviors around resistance, society in America has lost sight of what's happening.


Cases are spiking in Texas, Arizona, Florida and right here in Arkansas and little do we all know, we're killing America from the inside out because society is distracted. The simple "ask" of wearing a mask has presented another reason for an American to resist, preach the constitution, flip out, and act like a fool in public. It makes absolutely no sense.


Let's shift the lens from National to local...

At a recent City Council Meeting, Eureka Springs Mayor Butch Berry said,


“There’s been a lot of comments about … people wanting and encouraging me and the city council to enact ordinances requiring citizens to wear masks, so this is a resolution to that point,” Berry said.


It’s a resolution and not an ordinance, because an ordinance would be unenforceable. Berry recalled the city of Fayetteville’s recent ordinance mandating masks, an ordinance he said is overridden by Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s decision not to mandate mask wearing throughout the state.


“The ordinances that have been passed, unfortunately, are unenforceable,” Berry said. “A city cannot supersede the state. What I’m hoping we can do is encourage everyone in the city to take responsibility to wear their masks at all times, especially going into … public places.”

She'd much rather serve guests like this rather than have to wear a mask all day.

Eureka Springs and Carroll County host over 750,000 visitors yearly. While visitors come to Eureka Springs year around, March through December are the peak months for visitation. In other words, in reading Berry's words, the choice lies within each and every person in Eureka Springs. We're in the middle of our peak season and our little town continues to be flooded by thousands upon thousands of visitors during a worldwide pandemic.


Each visitor, resident and independent business owner has the power to choose.


With this kind of foot traffic in a town this small, the independent business owners, in Eureka Springs, have chosen to follow the Mayor's resolution. They ARE choosing to do what is right for all human beings and for their business. They ARE choosing to do their very best to serve locals and visitors at a time when they could choose to remain closed. And they ARE choosing to serve you if you wear a mask when you patronize their independent business.

It's not his fault

But just like the smoker who attacked me in 1994, the same thing is happening today. When Stick Brown asks her visitors to please do the right thing and wear a mask at her business, Chelsea's Corner Bar, she is often met with verbal abuse.


Stick "asks."


There's a worldwide pandemic and Stick, an independent business owner that takes her responsibilities seriously, asks a reasonable question to a guest walking into her bar. She does this for the safety of her community, her other patrons in the bar, herself, her staff and even for the guest to whom she is asking.


This is an important point of clarification: Back in the 1960s and 1970s when "no shirt, no shoes" was enforced by business owners, customers we're asked (not told) by service workers to follow that guideline of that private business establishment. The customer always had the opportunity to make a choice after being asked.


In the 1990s, when I was a service worker in college, the ban on smoking became the next societal change in businesses across our country, again, service workers were in the line of fire. Were we ever! We would ask (not tell) customers to follow the guideline and to make the choice to smoke in the designated section for smokers. The customer had the choice to make.


It's simple:

You choose to do this - we choose to serve you.

If you choose not to do this - we choose not to serve you.


Our local, state and federal government representatives have left it up to personal choice. You can choose not to wear a mask as you enter Chelsea's but subsequently Chelsea's will choose not to serve you.


All Americans have the power to choose. The United States is the only country founded upon the principle of freedom for all but let's all please remember that also means that private business owners in America also have the freedom run their private business and to refuse service as necessary.


Today, because of the upheaval and division in America, America is distracted. The fact that over half a million people are dead in the world today hasn't phased Americans or changed behaviors. In the wake of a worldwide pandemic, Americans can't even see clear enough to act as responsible citizens; and it's even happening right here in little'ol Eureka Springs, Arkansas.


It's not unconstitutional to ask someone to wear a mask in a private business establishment that cares for the humans that they employ. Bottom line, it's humane for one human to ask another human to please wear a mask during a worldwide pandemic.


The sign of the times: "No Mask. No Service."


The choice is yours.

But for God's sake, behave.

Don't act a fool in public.