By Emily George
Every morning I wake up in this surreality.
Nothing seems real. I dread leaving my house, yet I have to. I am an essential employee. My company spouts lies on their website about providing disinfectant products to clean hourly. It makes me nauseous. We have been given hand sanitizer and gloves. Gloves are useless unless you change them constantly. DAY 12 of the pandemic they finally gave us signs on the door stating social distancing needs to be followed.
Things customers have said to me:
“This is kind of excessive don’t you think?”
“Can you believe this shit? You know it’s a hoax right? *cough* *sneeze*”
“I thought about coming in here coughing and hacking. Wouldn’t that be funny?” (NO. In fact it would not be funny. This is a nightmare with no end in sight.)
“You are being rude.” Yes. I am. My life is more important than your feelings.
My entire body is tensed up 6-8 hours a day. I am constantly spraying Lysol, which I know will run out. It was my only bottle, and I don’t have anymore. I bought it and brought it in to work. I am so scared all of the time.
I am afraid of what will happen when I will run out of Lysol. I am afraid of every person that walks in the door. I am afraid because I don’t want to die. I don’t want to kill someone I love.
My emotions rollercoaster between fear, anxiety, rage and hysteria. Sometimes I want to cry. Sometimes I find myself laughing hysterically. Nothing feels real.
My daily routine has quickly transformed into wake up, put my work clothes on, drive, pull over into an empty restaurant parking lot, have a panic attack, cry, throw up, drive, go into work, try to hold my shit together, leave work, cry until the stress of being hypervigilant is out, watch stupid television so I can forget what is happening, sleep and repeat.
I have a friend who works at a pet store who tells me how they have had to blockade the store so customers won’t get too close to the employees. He tells me they are literally trying to beat down the doors. I know someone working at a grocery store who is terrified to stock the floor with any kind of product that is so high in demand. She is afraid she will get trampled. I know people who are so terrified to leave their homes it is almost paralyzing, and restaurant employees who are still getting paid server wages and not getting tips.
I know gas station workers who are about to break.
These people are our ESSENTIAL EMPLOYEES. These people are the literal backbone of society. They have been deemed so critical to the flow of society that they must remain open at the risk of themselves and their families with hardly any protections, and are still getting paid terrible wages.
We are being pushed to our limits. We are now essential? We are not worth decent health insurance or not even provided with health insurance that we can reasonably afford. We are not worth paid sick leave, we are not worth a decent livable wage, but we are fucking essential. The hypocrisy is gut wrenching and disgusting.
Greed is going to get people killed. It already is. Mega corporations and their slick, corporate, bullshit lingo, “we care about you so much, but really go risk your lives so we can line our pockets.” Our lives, our families, our friends, our hope and our dreams appear to mean NOTHING to the wealthy or to the CEOs. Nothing. As long as they can sit behind a computer safely tucked away from the virus and give orders to their lackeys and continue making money. It is revolting.
I am full of rage. For myself, for my people.
WE DESERVE BETTER.
We need to do better for our people. Our culture has alienated us from ourselves and from each other. Consumerism is the prayer. Capitalism is the religion. They divide us through racism, sexism, classism and many other forms of bigotry so that we will be too busy competing against each other and hating each other to see that we are one people. Some politicians are actually telling us some deaths are necessary to keep the economy going.
They keep us hating ourselves so we do not believe we deserve better than what we have been given. Too fat, too thin, too rich, too poor, too ugly, too pretty. Buy this, buy that. If they keep us down then we will never rise.
It is time to rise up. We deserve better.
We need emergency paid sick leave. We need universal health care. We need all factories to shut down and make critical medical equipment. We need to wake up and realize the self hate and hate toward each other is a product of corporate America and it’s obsession with money.
We need to come together.
We may be poor in wealth, but we are not poor in spirit.
We have been blinded by so much propaganda designed to blind us to reality. I ask that we come together in solidarity and wake up. Love ourselves. Love each other. Fight back, because no one is going to do it for us.
We have to fight as ONE.
Emily George is a teacher and writer learning to embrace her past as part of her identity.
Editor: Dana Gornall