“I work at a craft store,” you may be saying, quite reasonably, to yourself. “I sell decorative glues, stretch fabrics, wooden dowels of varying diameters, paints, papers and, when in season, gingerbread house kits. By what stretch of the imagination am I essential personnel?”
Well, you know what’s a stretch, for the imagination or otherwise? Our multicolor “Wild Horses” anti-pill fleece, available for just $10.99 a yard, which you should be selling right now, in store! It has horses on it! Maybe someone can use it to make a pillow, a pillow we bet will be a wanted gift and not immediately left in a garage by accident.
Remember, our customers are not hobbyists. They are Makers. And we are here for the Makers. Doesn’t that sound vital, like maybe they are supplying the whole nation with corn or trucks or important steel tubs? It doesn’t at all sound like the Makers we are supplying are trying to make floral-topped giant plastic eggs, driftwood signs that say “Home Sweet Home” and unidentified glitter objects that we think (but are not sure!) might be intended to be ducks.
You may see a series of pompoms glued to a piece of cardboard in a spiral pattern, in such a way that they will all instantly fall off, while somehow remaining very sticky. But I see the triumph of the human spirit. That is just what we need right now, even if it brings you to work, a workspace that we certainly intend to sanitize! Look, is not the imagination the most essential thing of all, at such a time? That is why theaters are open — oh, they’re closed?
Hmm. Well, think of all the people who want to make friendship bracelets to show to their absent friends over video chat. Maybe some of the people buying fun fabrics are using them to produce homemade ventilators to donate to hospitals! That’s sad and terrifying in a whole different way!
Also, I think Hobby Lobby might be trying to claim it is essential, too, and if they’re essential, we’re certainly essential.
We have gotten some complaints like, “You say that we can discuss not coming in to work, so then why is there not a clear provision made for people who don’t feel comfortable coming in to work?” and, “Why should it be up to me to not feel comfortable to come into work?” and, “Really, why are you making us have to argue that we don’t provide an essential service, when that should be obvious from the name and concept and literally every aspect of this store?”
But think about the people who would otherwise not have immediate access to a stacked foam rabbit cut-out, some stamps that are shaped like letters or a bin full of iridescent rocks!
That’s why we have to stay the course. You workers are, as I said in my note, so fundamental to communities “looking to take their minds off a stressful reality.” I understand that you, Michaels’s employees, live in this stressful reality, too. I get it, really. But that’s why it’s so vital we remain open. And remember, if you’re feeling stressed — you, too, can always come to Michaels to buy some epoxy, sprinkles or a tray of plastic beads. Whatever takes your mind off having to work through this pandemic! We’ll be open.
Read more from Alexandra Petri: