I made my first public appearance today since my city enacted its shelter in place order. You heard right. Other than two socially distanced church services, I have not gotten out of my car and entered a public building in 2.5 months. I haven’t even entered a grocery store.
I can tell you that this germaphobic hypochondriac was feeling a little uncomfortable when she walked into her vast Texas post office which was only supposed to be serving 10 people at a time and was holding many many more than 10 people. A mask would have been helpful, but the reality is that I could not find a mask to even purchase, I do not have a sewing machine, I don’t own a bandana, and the only scarves I own are long, thick winter scarves and it’s 95 degrees here and my weather app says it “feels like 104”. So I’m not really feeling scarfy face today.
As I stood on my assigned sticker in the cue I observed the group around me. Most of the employees were masked, but some were not. Some of the customers were masked, but most (whether young or old) were not. I noticed myself warily scanning the faces of those around me as they deftly maneuvered the room to stay 6ft away from any breathing human being at any given time.
I worry about what this pandemic may do to our society – and not just to our health. How long will we continue to look at others as a potential carrier/risker of our lives. Before these times – even on one of my most germ-conscious days – I was more concerned about the things that I could control on my particular body (like not touching my face or phone), but now even after being out in public for a only a few hours I can see that human behavior has already changed towards others. People are actually going out of their way to avoid being in the same breathing space as other humans.
I’m certainly grateful that the state of Texas has begun to open again. Strangely enough, adding some normalcy to going out has lessened the levels of fear in my life. I realize that I do not fall into the “high-risk” category, and I certainly am striving to be conscious and kind towards the health and feelings of others, but in reality… this virus isn’t going away. This virus is here to stay and whether we like it or not we are going to get it. Maybe we’ll get it and never show symptoms. Maybe we’ll get one of the mutations. But the reality of the situation is that COVID-19 is now in the world and even the promise of a vaccine isn’t a guarantee that we’ll eradicate this virus. Eventually we are going to have to move on with our lives in one way or another.
I can speak from experience that finding a new job during a pandemic is a way in which I am having to move on – and I’m not too excited about it. I keep reminding myself that “there is enough for everyone” as a way to attempt to temper my tendency towards a scarcity mindset as I look for new employment. But then again… during a pandemic when the unemployment office has hexed you and you’ve not seen a paycheck in 2 months… is there really enough for everyone? That is the question.
Although, have I ever told you the story of how I lived off $9 an hour while being capped at 30 hours per week, paying for my entire life without credit cards, and being repeatedly rejected for jobs befitting my education and experience level for like a year and somehow I survived? By all accounts the math in my budget doesn’t make sense and yet I survived!