The uncertainty and the doubt
Gosh, I have a lot of feelings going on right now, and it's so hard to talk about it without outing myself and risking my profession.
I am an essential worker. I have to go to work every day, where I may or may not encounter sick people who may or may not have coronavirus. For me, there is no social distancing. There is no staying 6 feet away from my customers or performing my job over the phone or working long distance. I can't leave my skills at the counter for pickup, then sterilize all the surfaces before touching anything again. I get to be in the nitty gritty of other people's dirtiest germs. I will be in people's faces, by people's sides, and easily within the range of a 6 foot droplet precaution radius.
And I don't have the PPE to protect me. No one does. We're running short of supplies and we have to reserve our stock for the times that our management deems that PPE is necessary. And the management, like the CDC's testing requirements, have been comfortable with being reeeeal strict about those definitions. I see my coworkers complaining. I hear the tension in their voices. There is genuine fear and anger - why aren't we being protected as we do our jobs?
But the hardest reality is knowing that anything I pick up at work will be going home with me, where I live with my older mother and father, both chronic and lifelong cigarette smokers. It's the same fear of every worker in my profession and in many others, taking these germs home with us, where we have children and parents and grandparents and in-laws. The lucky few of us who own private homes will be stripping naked in the garage and wiping themselves down before entering the house. The rest of us - sprinting to the showers and shooing away our loved ones in shame, anxious and overthinking every surface that we touch, every second that we are present in our own homes without undergoing a rigorous scouring and self-cleaning.
And even after we've scalded ourselves under the hottest water our showers produced, and rubbed ourselves down with the strongest soaps we could purchase, will it still be okay to come in contact with our loved ones? Will it be okay to hug my dad, or kiss my husband, or brush against my mom while we stand at the sink, doing dishes together? Is it okay for me to pet the dog, who eagerly rushes me at the door every night, only to be left disappointed when I disappear immediately into the bathroom? Should I even be touching these dishes as I eat my dinner, long past the hours when everyone else has eaten?
Last month I came hold with a cold, stronger than any cold I've ever had before, and gave it to half my family. It wasn't coronavirus then, but it could have been. My husband is still coughing. And as I put on my uniform to head into work again, I wonder if next time, it will be.