When the Downtown Alliance chatted with Kanruthai Makmuang on May 18, she’d been working 25 days straight. Makmuang is co-owner of the Thai kitchen Aroy Dee (20 John Street), and she commutes to Lower Manhattan from Queens to make sure her business stays afloat, keeping the drunken noodles coming to neighborhood regulars.
“I ride the subway every day,” Makmuang told the Downtown Alliance. “I protect myself a lot — I wear goggles. I have gloves. I have a mask. I have a hat.” Makmuang took precautions early in March, before it became the norm to do so, and she witnessed a different side of New Yorkers as things started changing. “Not a lot of people were aware of this virus,” she explained. “Not many of them protected themselves, and I got a lot of people looking at me weird and people yelling at me, you know?”
Her response? She sat quietly and just kept going. “It’s terrible, but I have to deal with it,” she said.
Thankfully, at work, Makmuang sees some friendlier faces. “I have a customer who comes in who couldn’t find a mask, so I offered her a mask for every time she comes in,” she said. “She’s a regular customer, she’s nice.”
Navigating these times when you’re in the service industry is an ever-evolving experience of strangeness. In addition to politely spreading the word about wearing face coverings, Makmuang is also trying to tell people about how much more helpful it is for small businesses when you order directly from them, instead of a third-party site. “People can support us by calling in or going directly to our website,” she said, “and we also offer a 10% discount if they use the code.”
While providing for her customers, Makmuang shows her appreciation for those on the front lines: “I see fire trucks, and I run and bring them a Thai iced tea — they’re so happy about it.”
It’s that spirit of generosity and tolerance that keeps her going. Hopefully people will increasingly show her the same.