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.