Face Masks Are Not Fascist, Just Polite – Comic Store In Your Future

Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics of Ankeny, Iowa, writes weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here.

When I first started writing for Bleeding Cool, my intention was to help people who wanted to open a comic store. To show people what I went through to hopefully prepare themselves if they decided to become a small business owner. I made a lot of mistakes; those mistakes ended up being a costly education for me. I wish I would have found more info online about owning a comic store. I read up and prepared for a long time, and I still was not ready.

Face Masks Are Not Fascist, Just Polite - Comic Store In Your Future.

In all honesty, I am not the same person as I was when I first opened. Less naïve and more jaded. The owner from the first year of opening Rodman Comics would need to change. If I had not changed and became more business-minded, the store would have closed long ago. Sadly, I learned I needed more than decades of comic reading knowledge, being a nice guy, and having a strong will (or as others who know me would call it hard-headed).

One of the reasons I opened the store was to better "control" my own destiny. I learned that often things are out of one's control. I had lost my job years ago during the great recession and never wanted to go through that again. I discovered the hard way I could still lose my job even here at the store. The economy is often out of most peoples' control. I had signed a five-year lease because I strongly believe in the store's future. I was looking forward to celebrating the store's 10th anniversary this year in October. 2020 has been the most unusual year I have been through. Obviously, getting a government order to shut down due to a virus was not something I ever thought was possible in the years leading up to this one. Even after reopening, I wondered will the customer base we had return? So far, we are one of the fortunate businesses to be able to keep ongoing. It was a lot of luck and a lot of work. I have added two people to staff this month and hope everything keeps going in a positive direction for us. I am worried. I hope a second wave that could lead to another shut down does not happen. Other states are already reversing some of their business openings due to the virus. Here in Iowa, we have been much more fortunate than other states, such as our neighboring state, Illinois. Illinois has been hit much harder by the coronavirus than we have so far. Thousands of more deaths than we currently have. Another factor we have little control over is how safe people feel. A lot of businesses across the country are able to be open though people are too afraid to go out, which is entirely understandable.

People are getting stir crazy. When we first reopened, I had a lot more people who were customers staying home due to being afraid of the virus. Now, I have people that for months were staying inside their homes now wanting us to resume regular gaming. This makes me nervous. We have not even reopened on Thursdays yet. There is, of course, a part of me that wants to go back to the way it all was before the virus hit, though I know it is wishful thinking. The virus is an invisible enemy. I could simply walk to my car in the parking lot, get it, and never know. I miss going to the movie theater and watching new releases, though being in an enclosed space for over an hour with even a small group of people is risky.

Human nature is to resist change. Even fear change. Seeing so many people wearing face masks is still not something I am used to. I have one, though seeing so many others wearing one still does not feel "normal" to me. That said, I am amazed by so many people getting upset when they go to a business and find out face masks are required. They are correct; they do not have to wear one if their government is not requiring one or as long as they do not go into a business that requires them. Remember those signs saying no shirts, no shoes, no service? Same principle. As an owner of a business, I have plenty of people who bring in their own food or drink even though there is a sign saying no outside food or drink. People will not bring outside food or drinks to Walmart, though for some reason, a comic store with signs saying not to is, in their mind, not an issue. The thing I hear most is other comic stores let me. We are not other comic stores. As I tell people, a business has rules. It is like if I go to someone's house and they ask me to take off my shoes. If I say no and wear them inside their house anyway, it is pretty disrespectful. Odds are it will be frowned on, and I will not be invited back if I am not flat out asked to leave for just doing whatever I want. The same thing applies to face masks. Don't want to wear a face mask into a business that requires one? Then don't go. Going in and feeling entitled that the rules do not apply is not a good reason.

Things change. Over the years of being open, many things have changed and will keep changing. At the end of 2019, if someone would have told me face masks would be commonly worn, a virus would force many businesses to close, and there would be protests outside the Des Moines police department. Diamond Comics would be unable to ship new material, Marvel would be skipping weeks of new comics, DC would start up with new vendors other than Diamond then flat out leave Diamond, I would have thought it all beyond belief. I would never have believed any of those things were possible. I have wondered in the past if Diamond had a fire that damaged their warehouse and new comics were lost, how would it affect the industry. Little did I know something far worse would actually happen. Now I wonder what the heck is going to change next?

As always, stay safe, everyone.

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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