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The Gloves Are Off

, , , , , | Working | May 26, 2022

I have newly moved to this small town with a relatively higher population of Asians. One Sunday afternoon, I go to this global chain sandwich shop for a quick bite. This shop is the kind where you get your sandwich first and then pay when you exit. As I enter, I see an employee making a sandwich for a previous customer. I sit down at a small table, play on my phone, and wait for my turn, not paying much attention to what is going on at the sandwich station. When the customer leaves, I move to the sandwich station, and the employee returns from the cash register.

It is worth noting that I am an Indian and I’m a vegetarian by choice. I mention to all restaurant staff upfront that I eat no meat, eggs, or chicken, but milk and milk products are okay. I am not the glove police or anything, but I request that my food is handled with clean hands or fresh gloves just to avoid meat contamination. Usually, this is not a problem as I order simple vegetarian options on the menu and everyone understands and accommodates this.

Me: “Hi, I’d like a [selection of wheat bread] to start my sandwich. But before that can you please change your gloves?”

Employee #1: “I just changed now.”

Me: “Sorry, I did not see that. You just finished serving the other customer.”

Employee #1: “Doesn’t matter. My gloves are clean. Did you want your bread toasted or not?”

Me: “Hey, sorry, I am not going ahead with this. I’d like you to change them, please; I am a vegetarian and it matters to me. Please change the gloves.”

The employee rolls her eyes and looks upset by now.

Employee #1: “That customer is also like you and ordered a vegetarian sandwich.”

She gestures to me while saying this in a way that kind of implies that the other customer was an Indian, too. But I am not comfortable with her answer, nor do I appreciate her rudeness. I don’t know what to do at this point, and I am about to walk off when another employee arrives from inside.

Employee #2: “What seems to be the problem?”

Employee #1: “Yeah, she wants fresh gloves — like people of her type — and I am not doing that. I just changed to these and I served no meat with these.”

Me: “I am sorry for the inconvenience. I am just not sure.”

When I start to say I will leave, he cuts me off.

Employee #2: “Hold on. Hey, [Employee #1], did you cash out the previous customer wearing the gloves?”

Employee #1: “Yeah, so?”

Employee #2: *Exasperated sigh* “Let me handle this. You wait inside, please.” *To me* “let me help you now, if that’s okay.”

Me: “Sure, I’d like [selection of wheat bread] toasted with cheese, please.”

He wears fresh gloves and completes my order perfectly well and wraps it in paper.

Me: “I am sorry if that was an inconvenience to you.”

Employee #2: “No problem at all. She was not supposed to touch the register with gloves anyway. And we’ll change our gloves if you want us to change any number of times; that’s our policy.”

He then apologized for his coworker’s behaviour, and we made a small chat about my move to the town. I bought a cookie and drink with my sandwich and left. I went there almost every Sunday for lunch and met this employee most times. The first employee did not interact with me when I was there. She left soon after.

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