She's kind of a cross between your grandma and an Army drill sergeant.

Shelia Garrett, the lead cashier at Ace Hardware on Rosedale Highway, is in her 16th year at the family-owned store. But this year she's starting to earn a reputation as "The Mean Mask Lady" for her straightforward, no-nonsense approach to customers who feel the need to challenge the store's requirement that masks must be worn inside.

"Shelia's not really mean," said assistant manager Donald Johnson. "She's just the first one customers see when they come in."

Indeed, Garrett is often working the cash register right inside the front door. And when someone comes in without a mask, she's no shrinking violet.

"I will say something," she said.

And word has been getting around. Garrett has become something of a local celebrity for her uncanny ability to make grown men feel like they're in trouble with their third-grade teacher.

What's a macho, drywall-installing, red-blooded American male supposed to do when this grandmotherly type lays down the law?

There's only one thing to do, unless he doesn't mind coming off like a real jerk.

Say, "Yes, ma'am."

Garrett can laugh about it, but she says this has been her toughest year yet in retail.

The big chalkboard outside is clear: "Masks are required," it says.

But apparently it's not that simple.

Every employee at the store wears a mask for eight or nine hours a day (apparently without suffering oxygen depravation), yet some customers act like wearing a mask for a few minutes in the store is a major inconvenience.

And the employees have heard it all.

"It’s against my religion."

"I have a medical condition."

"I vowed I would never wear a mask, and I’m not going to start now."

"I might be mistaken for a robber."

And being sworn at. Yes, it's a thing.

It's even gotten physical, Johnson said.

According to multiple news reports, a Target employee in Van Nuys was injured after helping to remove two customers who refused to wear masks.

In Pennsylvania, a convenience store clerk was punched in the face after declining service to a man without a mask.

And there's been much worse.

"I've been here a long time," Garrett said. "Most customers are good about it."

It only takes one or two to ruin your day.

On Friday, Gilbert Beal was shopping at Ace with his 5-year-old son, Liam. Both father and son were wearing masks.

"The way I understand it, wearing a mask doesn't protect us, it protects those around us," said the Marine veteran turned law enforcement officer.

"It's gotten to the point some people are getting out of hand," he said. "Put a mask on. Be courteous to others."

Whatever Garrett and her co-workers are doing seems to be working. Compliance for the mask requirement is virtually 100 percent at Ace.

Down the street at the big-box Lowe's Home Improvement store, mask compliance was only about 40 percent on Thursday afternoon. Even some employees weren't wearing a mask.

Customer Roslyn Atherly, however, was masked up as she exited the store.

"I am concerned," she said as she stopped to talk.

After seeing so many customers without masks, even as the county of Kern is seeing an increase in reported COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Atherly said the community's behavior is worrisome.

"You don't have to have symptoms to pass on the infection," she said.

These are strange times. But Garrett seems to have a knack for enforcing a requirement that not everyone cares to abide by. And she does it with class.

She's not afraid to give customers the business — even as they're giving the store theirs.

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

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(16) comments

Moardeeb

Wow. Americans have really become soft! " if I can't go drink, go to a theater and I have to eat at home for 3 weeks I'll go insane!" Let's see, Italy and Spain did it and so now they are free! Americans are inferior psychologically to the rest of the world who have flattened the curve?

What a sad state America is in! Buck up people. Stay home, wear a mask when you can't! Show some backbone!!

PopTart

I took my business back to the big box stores....

REMUDA

It's all good . . . with less road traffic, easy parking (esp. disabled), easy checkouts, friendly smiles . . . uh . . . smilin' eyes . . . "can I he'p ya . . . ?" . . . more choices . . .

& cripple-go-carts galore . . .

Unionpacific

She has to be one tough lady to keep breathing back in her own Carbon Dioxide, cause her own blood pressure to go up from a greater strain to breath to looking ridiculous wearing a mask for a virus that has mainly effected people in nursing homes (43%) and less than 1% of America's 330 million.

Boogerface Nutter

I keep reading your uninformed opinions and am certain you've never read anything. Perhaps you receive all your information from watching Fox News where the bevy of personalities have been passing the virus off as nothing to worry about.

Healthcare professionals wear masks all day long to keep from breathing in bad things. They breathe in that same CO2 and don't seem to suffer any of the consequences you would have those of us who have working brains to believe.

This virus had KILLED a whole lot of people in nursing homes but it has affected millions. That latest stat is that the majority of people in the current uptick are between 4 and 49 years old. Your photo places you in your 20s. feeling invulnerable?

Know anyone personally who has been hospitalized from it? I do and neither was in a nursing home. Neither is back to 100 percent after two months.

Stop believing in the tooth fairy

REMUDA

"Breathe in" . . . "Breathe out" . . . & don't cough . . . stay 'toothless' . . .

DDS folks wear meds to avoid 'my open mouth' in & out as well as theirs. I wear my 'bandana' in waiting (like theirs--only protects others within 72" from outgoing). . . and then . . .

When the facts finally 'surface'(?) . . . then we'll all know . . .

Until then . . . it's 1918 all over again . . .

Comment deleted.
CTurk3

FY!: I know facts don't mean anything to a Liberal but, "Over three years in office, President Trump has played a total of 35 confirmed rounds per year in office. According to CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, Obama played a total of 333 rounds of golf in his eight-year presidency. That averages out to about 41 rounds per year".

Comment deleted.
Boris25

Just a thought, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt".

Masked 2020

what's up with Lowes?.......not even the employees are wearing masks?

All Star

The article said "some" employees weren't masks. You are a nit wit.

Gene Pool Chlorinator

@All Star: Yorkies (AKA "Masked 2020") has never been one for reading comprehension. I'm constantly correcting them, but good to see there are others trying to help as well...

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