In one shift, I estimate I’ve contributed to the production of nearly 100 margaritas. While my boyfriend, with his “real” job with things like minutes for meetings and casual Fridays, is told to stay home, I not only get to attend work in person, but I have to.
Facebook is a breeding ground for guilt and soapboxes. Friends whose opinions I respect are begging their friends to save lives by staying home.
But here’s what’s happening in my world:
Earlier this year I began the job hunt to get out of the restaurant industry and put my shiny new Masters degree to work. At the end of several interview processes, a disease swept the planet and effectively shut down all normalcy. Restaurants were forced to end their dine-in services and reduce to takeout or delivery only, causing the dismissal of countless people from jobs they depend on.
I was not one of them.
As a manager, I get to stay behind and help keep the machine well-oiled so that there will be something for the rest of the staff to return to when this is all over. We are still serving margaritas and tacos to those Montgomery residents still interested in leaving their houses.
I’m lucky that I work for a company who wants to do right by their staff, and I’m lucky that I was promoted last year to this position.
But, as the nation struggles to weigh the importance of economic health against human health, I’ll just say it loud and clear: Restaurants should not be essential businesses, and it is the government’s job to protect the economic health of its residents while they protect their physical health.
Also: healthcare should not be tied to employment, and don’t you think the current political climate is a wonderfully demonstrative example of why that should be the case?
Tragically, I fear economic loss greater than I fear spreading COVID-19, because that is the more tangible concern at this point. If the government wants this disease to stop overwhelming hospitals, they need to reassure us that they’ll do their part to prevent economic collapse. I don’t trust those in charge right now.
This disease has been a practice in checking our own privilege. Some people get to stay safe, work from home, and keep their jobs. Others have no choice but to continue going to work or otherwise lose their home…even if they feel the ethical thing to do is to stay home.
I’m also fortunate that I have other skills. Speaking of, does anyone need a website? I have great prices.
I’m working with my employer to figure out which balance will best mitigate both my economic and my personal health concerns. Right now, this means a reduction of hours. And a loss of hours means a loss of pay.
My full title in the Peace Corps was Water, Sanitation, Health and Nutrition Extension Agent. Do you know what that means? That means I learned a whole new language just so I could teach people how to stop spreading diseases that were literally killing one in five of their children. Then I was emergency evacuated because bad guys kept blowing people up. Then I got a Masters degree and completed a thesis on why West African children are getting screwed by people who aren’t well-enough equipped to handle health crises. And now here I am, going out in public when Alabama is projected to have the fourth highest number of COVID-19-related deaths, because I don’t trust our government to do their job. We are handling this no different than a developing country, and I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but I spent a ton of money to be able to make that statement from an informed perspective.
The governor of Alabama dragged her feet on issuing a stay-at-home order because “we’re not California.” Can you imagine being so concerned with identity politics that you’d juxtapose yourself with your self-proclaimed rival before considering what’s actually best for your constituents? When Governor Ivey finally did issue the order, it was weak and hardly differed from what was already encouraged by the administration.
Take it from someone who knows: We need to take this seriously and not trust that the government will do their part to protect us. We need to take ownership of the country’s health. You know that you need to wash your hands and mind your distancing. Consider speaking up when you see someone screwing up, like my friend Lori did to me when I gathered with my friends last week for a birthday celebration.
We need to be gentle with those people who are still going to work. I am sorry that I am still going. I don’t want to. I love my job and I love not contributing to pandemics more. But I don’t believe that, on the other side of this, I will have money to pay my bills if I choose to stay home.
Be good to yourself. Drink water and occasionally leave the house to take a walk.
Be good to others. Ask them gently why they’re making they choices they are. If you’re in the financial place to do so, buy something from them! Order merchandise from their restaurant online, or hire them to do a task for you remotely. I’m a web developer who specializes in WordPress, and the online store for my restaurants is located here.
Your other out-of-work friends might be interested in tutoring your child via video call. Or maybe they can come mow your lawn. Maybe they can write you an article or teach you how to style your hair. Maybe they can draw you some original tattoo art and you can provide them with a down payment for them to immortalize the piece later.
This is new to all of us. There’s literally never been a pandemic in the globalism era. Information and misinformation spreads too quickly, but I’m doing the best I can to make choices with the information I have. Do you know how awkward it is to tell those around you that if a member of your family gets sick, you’re jumping in a car and driving across the country? Contingency plans make me feel strange, and I’d rather not have to have one. I want to both take this seriously, but not be hyper reactionary.
I also don’t want to be a part of the problem.
I’m sorry that I’m essential.