At the risk of sounding like I’m telling people what to do, I feel compelled to write a post about a news story I was alerted to last night. Amber Lynn Gilles of San Diego recently decided to visit a Starbucks. She was not wearing a face mask, even though the masks were required.
San Diego County issued a notice as of May 1, requiring residents to wear face coverings in most public settings, including when visiting a store or getting food at a restaurant. The rule does offer exemptions for those with a health condition that prevents them from wearing a mask. Gilles implied that she is medically exempt from wearing a mask, but she didn’t explain why. Perhaps she doesn’t actually have a medical condition preventing her from wearing a mask. Or maybe she simply feels it’s no one else’s business.
In any case, Lenin Gutierrez, the barista who tried to serve Ms. Gilles, asked her if she had a mask. Gilles said she didn’t. So Lenin said he couldn’t serve her.
Gilles’ response was to flip off Lenin, “curse up a storm”, take Lenin’s picture, threaten to report him to corporate, and complain about him on Facebook. This was her now deleted post:
“Meet lenen from Starbucks who refused to serve me cause I’m not wearing a mask. Next time I will wait for cops and bring a medical exemption.”
To be sure, this was not Amber Lynn’s finest day. I don’t condone her behavior at all. She sounds very much like an asshole. Other people thought so too, and her post quickly backfired. She got all kinds of hate, and yes, lots of people calling her a “Karen”, which if you know this blog, you know I don’t like. But what was most troubling to me was that Gilles got death threats. It struck me as completely hypocritical and ridiculous, especially since the face masks are supposed to help preserve life.
As I have read on Facebook post after Facebook post for the past few weeks, wearing a mask is the “kind” and “considerate” thing to do. If you wear one, you are showing regard for other people and their health. Well… if that’s how people really feel– that all people’s lives are important, and we should be doing our best to preserve them and show our regard for others– why would we cheer about Amber Lynn Gilles getting death threats?
Gilles doesn’t sound like a very pleasant person. She wrote on Facebook that “Masks are stupid and so are the people wearing them.” According to the Washington Post article I linked, Gilles has also expressed her contempt for masks in prior posts and suggests that people who wear them are “not thinking clearly”. The 35 year old mother of three has also been described as an “anti-vaxxer”. She was quoted as saying, “It starts with coffee but it ends with digital certificates and forced vaccinations.”
Mmm’kay then… it sounds to me like Gilles is very frightened about something. Perhaps that is what led to her outburst. Maybe she’s feeling “caution fatigued“, as I know I am these days. I know I’ve been feeling anxious and depressed and, at times, angry about what’s happened this year. I feel kind of robbed, even though I probably don’t have the right to feel that way. I am admittedly a very privileged person who enjoys the good fortune of being able to stay home and avoid these kinds of altercations. However, I still feel angry and depressed, whether or not people think I have that right. It is what it is.
Coronavirus is scary, and many people are fearful of what is going to happen in the immediate future. A lot of times, fear is expressed as anger. Anger makes people feel powerful and strong. Fear makes them feel weak and powerless. I’ve seen this reaction in dogs many times… wonderful, sweet, loving pets reduced to snarling and lashing out with their teeth because they’re scared and feel the need to defend themselves. I don’t think humans are necessarily that different. I’ll bet Amber isn’t always profane and hostile. Most people aren’t.
I don’t know what led Amber Lynn Gilles to this point in her life. I’d like to think, though, that she’s not a totally terrible person. This incident amounts to just a few minutes of her life. In my experience, most people are not completely horrible, nor are they completely wonderful. Most people have good days and bad days. I would not want to see a person’s life ruined over a few bad moments caught on video or social media. I would not want Amber Lynn Gilles to kill herself or be murdered over something like this. I think people who send death threats should be prosecuted.
Someone on the Washington Post wrote this comment, with which I completely agreed:
I suspect that the people who are reacting in this way, whether they’re refusing to wear a mask or being hateful to people who refuse to wear masks, are doing so because they’re scared and feel like they’ve lost control. They feel good “going off” on someone, not realizing that reacting to other human beings with hatred is no better than the initial bad behavior that prompted the hateful response. Lest anyone call me a hypocrite, I’ll even admit that I should try harder not to be mean spirited, too. Sometimes I vent with anger, although I mostly try to keep it somewhat private. Especially now. I try to do better, although it’s a daily struggle.
The good news is that Lenin Gutierrez is now being rewarded for the few minutes of meanness Amber Lynn Gilles sent his way. Matt Cowan, who doesn’t know him or Amber Lynn Gilles, decided to set up a GoFundMe account for him, inviting people to give him tips. At this writing, his tip fund is over $58,000, and Gutierrez, who sounds like a genuinely good person, says he’s going to use the money to teach dance to children.
I have often stated that I think good things can come out of almost any situation. As unpleasant as Amber Lynn Gilles’ behavior was, if you think about it, it may ultimately change many lives. If Gutierrez makes good on his plans to teach dance, he will no doubt do a lot of good for a lot of young people who could use some good in their lives. If Amber Lynn hadn’t been so hostile and insulting to Lenin Gutierrez, he might just keep on being a barista, serving the people Gilles calls “sheep”. But now he’s being singled out as a mensch, getting handsomely rewarded for doing his job and being cool. So, if anything, that was something good that came out of Amber Lynn Gilles’ outburst. Maybe Lenin Gutierrez will have the chance to fulfill a dream that will bear wonderful fruit for other people.
There are people I strongly dislike, and I am sure quite a few people strongly dislike me, too. But almost everyone I’ve encountered has had a positive aspect to them. Even Bill’s ex wife, who is someone I admittedly despise, has done me a solid. If she hadn’t been such a terrible wife to Bill and divorced him, I might still be single, and he might still be in a less ideal marriage. So, I am grateful to her for that… and I’m sure if I thought about it, I might even think of other reasons to be grateful to her.
I strongly dislike our former landlady for being immature, disrespectful, and trying to rip us off. But I am grateful that I got to live in a nice community in a beautiful area for a few years. I have good memories of our time there, even if the way we’ve parted hasn’t been good. But even leaving that situation on bad terms has a positive side, since I am also learning from that experience. That will only make me wiser, which is a good thing.
I don’t blame Amber Lynn Gilles for not liking the mask. I don’t like it, either, and I’m not convinced that it helps that much. I think that most of us will eventually be exposed to the virus, whether or not we wear masks. And some of us have already been exposed and aren’t even aware of it. I understand why so many people are angry. People are pent up, frustrated, worried, stressed out, angry, and sad. We should try to work together, but a lot of people feel like rebelling in a crisis– like the scared dog, they lash out. Some of them lash out inappropriately, like Amber Lynn Gilles, and that creates a domino effect of hatred… like the people who wish she was dead. I’m sure Amber’s children wouldn’t want their mother to die for want of a face mask and a cup of coffee. That’s preposterous.
It doesn’t help any matter when we don’t have empathy. Expressing hatred, and wishing for death on people we don’t even know, is not empathetic or civilized. It’s the wrong course of action, and ultimately will lead to our downfall. So no, I don’t wish death on Amber Lynn Gilles or her ilk. I wish her peace, which I hope will help her react with more kindness and understanding the next time she encounters someone simply trying to do their job.