Guest Post: I’ll Have A Medium Pizza, Hold The Mask

We’re still trying new things in the post-Athenae era at First Draft. This time, it’s a writer who was recommended by Cassandra. In this instance, her prophecy is looking pretty darn good instead of dire.

I give you the first post by Jamie O aka Blue Man In Red Land.


Blue Man In Red Land: I’ll Have A Medium Pizza, Hold The Mask by Jamie O

 My wife and I live in a small town in central Pennsylvania about 10 miles west of State College. By small town, I mean, small town. Not a person who lives in a large urban center’s idea of a small town with say population 10,000, but a truly small town of just 600.

We moved here from Pittsburgh in 2002. Prior to this, I lived all my life in a blue city environment (I grew up in York, PA, a small Democratic city). The town I live in now is decidedly not blue. Trump took our town 67%-30% in 2020.

Like a lot of small rural Pennsylvania towns, things are not great. The poverty rate is around 20%, and the median household income is just over 32,000. My wife and I joke that if we moved, we’d drop the median even more. It’s also very white, and I would imagine the COVID vaccination rate is quite low.

This brings me to the town’s pizza parlor, which is run by a very nice Central American family. They provide a dash of diversity to our white-and-camo populace. The food is pretty good and we’re regular customers, and they were good about masks and social distancing. I wanted to be sure to support them and help them through the pandemic. We had conversations about COVID, and they said they were doing okay and were very adamant about the importance of masks, vaccines, and social distancing. But about a month ago, I noticed that their masks were gone.

This was sudden. One day I stopped in to pick up a pizza and inside there were about a dozen other customers and three employees. I was the lone masker. Did I get stares? Oh, you betcha. A couple of old boys wearing camo hats and smirks gave me the stink eye for being one of those silly libs who give a darn about others.

I’ve returned to the pizza place a few times since, and no masks remains the new policy. Being a bleeding-heart, I am not really mad at them because I think I understand why. I have empathy for them. I imagine there are challenges to running a business as a Hispanic in a community where some of the populace are programmed to wonder if you are “an illegal.” Despite this, the community embraces them. They do well and my neighbors speak highly of them. But just imagine telling someone in a MAGA hat to put on a mask if you are a brown person. Can’t be easy.

Maybe one day, they got a threat and decided it wasn’t worth it. Hard to say. But the suddenness of it makes me wonder. I don’t want to abandon them, so now when we order, we get food during off hours, having late lunches or early dinners. Risk assessment, you know. Have to weigh when the mouth-breathing horse paste enthusiasts are in there, and try to avoid them whenever possible.

Having to consider when it is safest to order a pizza to avoid picking up a virus from a conspiracy theorist. What a ridiculous time to be alive.

2 thoughts on “Guest Post: I’ll Have A Medium Pizza, Hold The Mask

  1. I looked at the pic, here, and thought of Edward Hopper‘s Night Owls with a ‘no mask, no service sign in the window

  2. Order a side salad, extra dressing and watch them squeal and run away.

    Only guessing of course!

    Welcome to First Draft,


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