Saturday, October 10, 2020

You Don't Know How it Feels To Be Me

Doctored Whole Foods PIzza 
For eight dollars you can feed two people with these Whole Foods frozen pizzas.  We try to stay away from prepared food in general but Pandemic living has changed that slightly.  When your choices are either completely homemade meals or take out, then these little in-between helpers are a nice compromise but not too often because it's a slippery slope.  Letting our guard down can come with consequences. 
A friend recently wrote and asked me how it was working in retail right now.  Such a loaded question, it took me aback as I forget much of the population is dealing with entirely different issues, that somehow we're even more isolated than before.  It's been a long strange trip even looking back to only four months ago, walking into the building for the first time and seeing all my fellow coworkers.  How strange that was, like the scene in Close Encounters when Richard Dreyfuss gets on that small plane with the others of his kind.  
Looking around the room at the equally spaced singular tables, I could see in some people's eyes that they had seen the spaceship.  I wanted to grab them and hug them, say how I understood, have a human moment, but I didn't. I stayed facing forward, sitting quietly getting briefed on the new world we were about to enter.
Everything felt so dangerous and temporary but that hasn't gone away.  The store manager's are trying to force us to act as though the dangers are no longer there because we were 'making the customer's uncomfortable' it was said.  But when they recently increased the capacity, many of us began building barriers out of trash cans, fixtures, anything we could to put distance between us and the thousands of daily germ carriers.  We are tested daily for fever, yet they could be Typhoid Mary.  One day recently after the news about the uptick in Brooklyn numbers and two coworkers became ill, I literally moved an entire workstation that was in a vulnerable area, that I had complained about but so far no one had seen fit to relocate.  I had no authorization but could not go another day watching people work so closely to strangers without care.  I felt compelled to do it and may have scared some of the youngsters. 
I understand if some coworkers feel they are invincible but I already know I'm not, so protecting them is protecting myself.  That's how I see it.  I'm tired of trying to get those workers to comprehend the risk on both of us.  I need to protect myself.  If I hear another 20 year old say, That's okay, I think I already had it, I may punch someone. 
In just these short months, we've gone through many versions of what operating safely looks like.  The rules were broken more and more often when the city moved into the 3rd phase.  Coworkers began facing each other for lunch. Many of the margarita smelling alcohol dispensers and surface cleaning bottles are now missing or empty more often.  Tables aren't being wiped down between users, the bathrooms have become disgusting again.  But Brooklyn is facing another wave right when retail needs to get on it's feet.  I don't think we can afford to not do well for another 3 months.  When companies are desperate financially, they can make dangerous decisions. Our's is very conscientious but locally, it's far less humane and in the same breath, many in the staff are also taking advantage of the chaos, calling out constantly.  Decisions and daily changes are being made quickly and that makes a person nervous. 

This company where pre-COVID had always said 'speak your mind, tell us what we're doing wrong, question what doesn't make sense'.  At least they wrote it all over the walls, printed stickers and put on buttons we are forced to wear.  Now the word is 'do as I say' and the word non-negotiable has come up a few times this week after I pushed back.  That tells me we're in a new stage.  
So how is it working in retail right now?  Not great.  That being said I'm grateful to have a job.  Many of us are more afraid than others. It's too crowded for comfort.  Everyone starts masked but because of the exertion it takes to walk through the vast store, many end up pulling them down to catch their breath which is exactly what you don't want as those particles take flight during heavy breathing.  I can't blame them but customers are not concerned with my safety. They come at us like zombies with their cell phones pointed like guns, trying to show us what they found on the website.  We wear giant yellow buttons that say, please remain 6ft away for our protection but it's like trying to teach cats.  Anything that is so consistent is exhausting.  People actually come around the plastic barriers and enter the tiny space with us, which clearly describes the ridiculousness of the time.  You've never experienced anything so bizarre as standing in a plastic bubble with a 70 year old 6 inches from your face, who sees nothing wrong with this picture.  Its a scene right out of a Monty Python movie, as the scene goes silent, I hold my breathe quietly and slowly ask them to please move to the other side, pointing at the plexi-dome created to keep me safe. I can only guess education will take time to break this closeness we are so used to.  An old man or woman with their mask down to their chin, breathing heavily that can't hear well or where English is perhaps a second language regularly come so close that they grab me like a life raft.  That happens maybe 50 times a day.  I feel for them.  This is someone's grandpa.  But I am scared too.  You can only guess even masked, how so many encounters increases our load and vulnerability.  After all the air is only circulating to a point, we work in a box.  And children.  There are so many kids, running around touching EVERYthing.  They're kids, they get colds, they wipe their noses with their hands, then grab at things.  It's all very common and understandable.  But now, it is different.  Coworkers also must touch everything.  It's impossible I guess is what I'm saying, impossible to stay safe.  Nothing has changed since we were ultra careful wiping the bottoms of our shoes, cleaning packages before opening, not leaving our houses 6 months ago.  We just get more and more relaxed but it supposedly only takes that one infected person's breath to penetrate an orifice.  
Chris Christie of all people said it best this week.  He was someone who had been very careful.  He was afraid as he was high risk.  He knew it would be very tough for him should he contact the virus.  His state is doing horribly and he was a big fat target.  Then he let his guard down after being so careful for so long hunkered down safely in the butt hole of our president.  Even though the event he attended was said to allow only tested people and was mainly outdoors, he felt it was perfectly okay to hug and kiss on fellow like minded idiots.  How far will he or Giuliani go to live in the kingdom of hell?  Apparently as far as it takes.  Well he's lucky to be alive and an average man in his condition that didn't have access to his level of care most likely would not be that.   
A biggie breakfast to start the day

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