Fulton County Transit Authority employee makes most of mask mandate creations

September 29, 2020

(Editor’s Note: The following was submitted by Kim Jobe, Fulton County Transit Authority)

One Fulton County Transit Authority driver is taking the COVID-19 mandates at work seriously while having a little fun with one of them in the process.

Jo Ann Smith Gardiner uses the Personal Protective Equipment provided by FCTA for her job, but Gardiner has chosen some unusual masks to protect her behind the wheel of the agency’s vehicles she drives.

“With these mask mandates, all I hear out there is how we have lost our freedom because they make us wear them,” Gardiner said. “Everywhere you look, you see the blue or the handmade masks on people who follow the guidelines. We were out here looking alike in our masks, most were complaining, and nobody was laughing anymore.”

That’s when Gardiner decided to take matters into her own hands, well, face rather.

“One day I was on down time waiting on a client to finish with their appointment. I went in 5 Star (Food Mart) in Paducah and there, by the door, was this made-up, puckered lips mask. It was just calling out to me, so I bought it and put it on. Everyone I came in contact with really laughed and commented on that mask,” Gardiner explained. “I then posted it on Facebook and got even more comments. Not once did I hear ‘they are taking our freedoms.’ All I was hearing was laughter and good comments.”

Because of these reactions, Gardiner returned to Five Star on another run to Paducah and purchased even more of the funny masks.

“I’ve been trying to wear a different one every day, posting my face all over Facebook, and having fun with clients and everybody in the places I go in to,” Gardiner said. “I’ve not had one bad comment, but lots of laughs.”

Admitting she’s not making fun of the “horrible pandemic” America is going through, Gardiner says she’s just having a little fun within the process of it.

“Laughter makes a bad situation a little easier to tolerate,” Gardiner explained.

Gardiner, who will mark her second anniversary at FCTA in October, said her coworkers have been supportive of her personal project.

“I have had them ask, ‘What kind of mask are we going to wear today?’ I tell them to stay tuned because I have plenty of them,” Gardiner said. “I have some of the best coworkers and their laughter makes it even more fun wearing the masks.”

Other drivers along the roadways where Gardiner carries clients “going and coming” their way have noticed her various masks as well.

“I have been getting lots of horn blows and waves so, all in all, it’s been great,” Gardiner said.

Gardiner has no plans to return to a plain mask anytime soon.

“I hope I don’t ever go back to just the plain mask,” Gardiner said. “I hope that as long as this mandate lasts, I will have enough masks.”

Not really seeking out mask donations, Gardiner said if any talented area artists want to create some unusual ones to add to her collection, though, she will gladly wear them.

So, what happens when the mask mandate is over and wearing masks is not the typical part of Gardiner’s work day?

“As much fun as we have been having, I may even miss my masks when they lift the mandate and I have to go back to no face clothing,” Gardiner said, laughing. “When they have to see my bare face again that could get boring because my face stays the same old face.”

Until then, Gardiner says to stay tuned and keep watching for new masks as she gets ready to roll every day.

FCTA Operations Manager Joy Johnson is enjoying Gardiner’s mask project.

“I love that Jo Ann has turned this pandemic into something positive,” Johnson said. “It is very refreshing to see how she’s spreading kindness and joy. I must admit I, too, tune in for the mask of the day! #teamtransit”