John Steenwyk

The grocery manager, the anti-maskers, and the one thing he wouldn't say

Updated 7:45 AM ET, Fri October 9, 2020

In a series of essays called The Distance, Thomas Lake is telling the stories of Americans in the pandemic. This essay is based on phone interviews with John Steenwyk, Katy Steenwyk and Scott Demaree. Email thomas.lake@cnn.com if you have a story idea.

(CNN)There was one thing John would not say to the anti-maskers, although it was relevant to the discussion and frequently on his mind.

Thomas Lake
Here are a few things he did say, in his Chicago accent, at the Gardiner Market in Park County, Montana, to the small minority of customers who either didn't notice or didn't care about the conspicuous sign that said "NO MASK. NO SERVICE. NO EXCEPTIONS."
"Masks are required to be in the store," he told them, politely but firmly.
"You can tell us what you want and we'll bring it out to you," he said to the minuscule fraction who had genuinely forgotten their masks.
"I don't care," he said to the man who presented a card, which purported to be from a