I’m closing my game shop at the end of December.
I spent three years building it into a safe place where teens and adults could hang out and share their love of nerd stuff. We had weekly tournaments, midnight pre-releases and Dungeons & Dragons for hours.
Then COVID shut everything down.
I spent hundreds of dollars on custom “player shields” that are basically sneeze guards for teenage boys. I had face masks made with my game shop logo so those same teens would turn into walking billboards for me.
I bought an Ozone machine to nuke my play space and game library at least once a week. And I bought so many teensy bottles of hand sanitizer. Do you need any?
And then, like everywhere else, I got real lazy. I got tired of reminding my grown customers to put their masks over their noses. I got tired of them pushing all the plexiglass screens off too one side of the table like a preschool moving peas around the table.
I got tired of my glasses fogging up while I was working.
So I caved.
I told my regulars, “You know what? Masks aren’t mandatory in here. But don’t bully anyone who wants to wear one.”
That’s basically the same thing, right?
I kept cleaning, I kept ozoning. I stopped hosting giant tournaments.
But I didn’t stop the virus and I didn’t make my regular customers do their parts either.
Now, I’m closing.
Within the last month, just about every one of my regulars has been on quarantine for close contact or, heaven help us, they’ve actually been sick with the 2020 plague.
Was it because of me and my shop that’s only open three hours a day? Probably not.
It was the overall community giving up.
It was every other little shop or busy bar saying “Nah, don’t worry about the mask.”
It was the social butterfly who jokes “Your mask is protecting me, so I don’t need one.”
It was every little inch we gave COVID-19. And it took a mile.
For months, the CDC and the federal government and the state government and local health department and celebrities and social media influencers have been begging us to do something as stupid as wearing a face mask the right way.
They said, “You are saving other people.” Or they got real direct and said, “If you don’t wear it, you are killing your grandma.”
Looking at the COVID numbers and the unmasked smiles (and coughs) I see around town, most folks around here don’t care about getting someone else sick.
So how about these messages:
“Wear your face mask so we don’t shut down again.”
“Put a face mask on at the bar so the bar doesn’t close in a month for good.”
“There’s no more stimulus money coming. Put your face mask on so we can get back to normal.”
I have a friend who hasn’t been on a date in eight months. She could literally die if she gets COVID. So she wears a mask. Because she’s selfish and wants all this to be over.
Maybe I should have been selfish and worn mine, too.
I might still have a game shop.
Travis Weik is the managing editor of two different newspapers in two different communities. He doesn’t want to see any more of his friends have to close their doors forever.