Atlanta essential worker steps up and ‘still standing’ in hard times

When bars and shops became early casualties of pandemic restrictions in March, an LGBTQ Atlanta man lost one of his two jobs. Luckily, his other job gave him a critical role in the crisis.

Patrons of Atlanta Eagle will recognize Memo In Leather as the main attendant at Barking Leather After Dark. The in-bar shop is the “naughty little brother of the main Barking Leather,” Memo told Q.

He saw the business closures coming, but it was no less disheartening.

“I wasn't surprised, but was a bit sad about it,” he said of the closures. “I definitely miss my job there. I miss my bosses, Tory and Ray. But mostly, I miss the whole clientele, which is the reason of my being there and always a pleasure to help.”

Known for his friendly demeanor, Memo had the opposite experience at his other job: He was deemed “essential” by the government as an employee at Beltline Kroger. That helped Memo keep some income and his famously positive attitude, and it offered a chance to define his role during the pandemic: as a helper who can give other people some peace of mind.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic in the US, I knew I had to do something to help whoever I could, even if my role at the company is as simple as a cashier,” Memo said.

Between shifts at Kroger, Memo gave us behind-the-scenes insights into his jobs, talked about the closeness of the leather community, and offered a ray of hope for the future of queer Atlanta.

What has been your experience as an employee at Kroger?

I'm also so proud of them since they've stepped up to the situation. They've increased my hours. They also stepped up with the pay increases and improved the work safety conditions. They also devised a paid leave in case of this sickness.  

How is it on the frontlines as an essential worker?

By mid-March, the crowds got incredibly huge, so I had to be on top of every customer but at the same time with my customer satisfaction attitude at 100 percent. I kept myself calm, confident, cordial, but at the same time fast paced to help as many customers as I could. 

It gave me comfort to see the customers’ faces change: They would enter the self-checkout (my position) with a scared face, really nervous and most of the time in a hurry to leave the store. I would just simply smile and help them, greet them and make any casual comment. Some of them would smile and talk back to me.

I thought to myself that maybe if I made them forget for at least a second about all of their worries and put a smile on their faces, all was worth it. And I saw that smile so many times. 

What do you miss most about the leather scene?

I love being a leatherman. Atlanta has a strong leather and LGBTQ community, and they've welcomed me so nicely. I miss this community, their warmth, their kindness, but mostly their subversion and naughtiness. 

Luckily in the internet era, we have tools to keep in touch with our beloved ones. Video calls, chats, and message board websites are a great support for the lack of human touch we're all living as our new normal. 

Anything to add?

To my beloved LGBTQ+ Atlanta community and the whole world, listen to me: This too shall pass! Today we mourn the lack of social contact that once we had, but it'll come back soon. So many people, causes, etc. have tried to destroy us, but we're still standing. 

We will rise, taller, stronger, harder, thicker and more thrustful than ever! Just hang in there! And if you need any help or support, don't hesitate to contact me! I'll listen to you or try to help you in any way. 

I'd also like to thank this same community for their support. It is in a way a symbiotic relationship, and thank you to my family and my beloved hubby Bobby for their support.

Photo by Memo In Leather. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. Read our profile of Barking Leather pitching in on face mask production.