That was Then, This is…

 

woman wearing face mask
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

So, as of yesterday, I was convinced I was a recovering flu-victim in a Coronavirus time in history. When last we spoke, I was headed back to work today. So, here’s what went wrong…

Here are the questions which have spooled through my mind this week:

  1. Do I have Coronavirus or just your average everyday kind of bug?
  2. Do I return to work now that I am improving?
  3. Is it more irresponsible to go to work or to stay home?
  4. If I stay home, will I have a store to return to in two weeks?

So, I’m an old veteran of the flu. I know what to do to beat that bug down. I know what it looks like, feels like, sounds like, smells like. Okay, forget I said that last part out loud. I’m no doctor, but I’m telling ya — I’ve got the flu. Except… if you put the symptoms list side by side with the Coronavirus symptoms list, there is just no way to really know I have the flu without going in and having a stick shoved down my nose. I would do it, honestly, I would. But other people need to more. Besides, from what I’ve read, in BC they have to send the swabs to a lab in Alberta and a fast estimate for results is four days. So, if I’m going to stay home four more days, I’m going to need help on my paycheck, anyway.

I work for Starbucks. They are amazing, and are paying two weeks salary for any employee affected by this pandemic. Kudos. Proud and glad to be working for you. Still, you don’t want to abuse an employer like that. You don’t want to take that money if you don’t have to. This is what was weighing on my mind last night as I contemplated the should I stay or should I go theme of my work life. Around 7 pm I called my mother for advice, but advice was absent. As of 8:30 pm, I was wrestling with, do I call my boss at home and get her advice — but since the store opener’s day begins at 4:45 am (ugh!), I am not even sure if she is still awake at 8:45, 8:47, 8:49…. make a decision already, Leigh!

I don’t want to risk waking Vanessa. I don’t want to bother her at home at night unless I must. I am a grown up. I can make this decision. I am going to work.

Tuesday, Maybe 9:30 (?) pm. Chapters and Indigo stores from around the country post to Instagram that they are closed. THE. WORLD. IS. DOOMED. Actually, all kidding aside, this kind of shakes me up. I mean, not in a scary way, but in a this truly sucks kind of way. Good thing I have a full bookcase of unread books to get through. Still, this news suggests the world as we know it just may be over. Also, it occurs to me that I have yet to collect my books from Bookland in Vernon, which was originally closing at the end of March, and I better remember to do that asap.

Wednesday, 6:45 am. Alarm on snooze.

Wednesday 7:05 am. Must. Get. Up. (shoves dog out of the way).

Wednesday, 7:35 am.  I’m headed into work, and in my car, the news has announced that P.M. Trudeau is going to speak. I listen as I drive, and he is very serious and solemn, and once again as I sputter out a cough and feel the back of my chest burn, I think, “What you are doing is irresponsible.”

And how backwards is that? When did it become irresponsible to go to work? This is a first for me. Uncharted territory. I do not know what to do. Honestly, I just want someone else to make this decision for me. Please! Someone tell me what to do!

I think that as lovely as she always is, my boss is not 100% happy with my showing up and saying, yeah, I’m not really sure I should be here. She wants to know why I didn’t call. (See above). But she gives me a kind-hearted smile (because she is awesome) when she tells they will be okay and I should go home and call the 811 health line. If they tell me to stay home, Starbucks will pay me to do so.

I dial 811 on my phone. For 15 minutes,  I continuously hit the redial button every time I get the all-circuits are busy message or the please call again message. Finally, I am connected. I am asked to hit a number if this is Coronavirus related — so I do — then I am put on hold.

person holding black smartphone near white ceramic mug on brown wooden table
Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

Except, hold sounds a lot like dead air. I put my phone on speaker phone. Periodically, I hit the edge of the phone to ensure I haven’t been disconnected. Even more periodically, a disembodied voice tells me they are experiencing higher than normal call volumes and if I am having chest pain or heart pain, call 9-11. I am reasonably certain I would have figured that one out for myself, but I suppose it is good to know.

Once in a while, really bad elevator music plays in-between the disembodied voice message, but not every time. That concerns me at first. I keep thinking I’ve been disconnected, and then the same four bar song comes back on line.  After over thirty minutes of waiting, I get a real live human, and she asks how she can help me. I tell her my little story (minus the self-diagnosis) and she says, I am going to send you over to a nurse to talk to.

Wait, like, directly?

Well, not exactly. Thirty-four minutes later, another real-live human speaks in my ear. At that precise moment, I am in the middle of a coughing fit, and it becomes one of the shortest conversations on record. Oh yeah, that right there, she says. With that symptom, you are home for two weeks.

Seventy-five minutes of hold music. Two minutes of dialogue. This ratio is off. Still, she is cheerful in the midst of what I am sure will be a very long day in a longer month, and she wishes me a speedy recovery to good health. I thank her, and in the meantime, my boss has texted me with instructions on her end. I am to call another number and Starbucks will instruct me on what to do next in order to guarantee my paycheck.

After one hour, twenty-four minutes, and a bunch of seconds, I am answered by one person who forwards me to a second person, who tells me my boss must fill out the paperwork and then I will be paid. They, too, wish me health, which is nice. Everyone is being very nice. Also, the Starbucks hold music is a significant improvement over the government’s.

While I’ve been on hold, I’ve been in group Facebook chats, informed the fam about what’s up with me, listened to part of the Economic Minister’s speech, and researched what to do if you need to file for Employment Insurance. Not for me. For a self-employed customer who runs Karaoke — not so much, right now — and for my daughter, who — crap — I drove home from work two days ago. Flu or no flu, she works for Indigenous Bloom, and since they will have to throw out all their product should an infected person breathe on it, she has now just been laid off for two weeks. Oops and double oops and no good deed goes unpunished and all that. Fortunately, she works for Indigenous Bloom — she has money in the bank.

And so, just like that, I am off for ten days with pay, which HAS NEVER HAPPENED IN MY LIFE EVER, or until that day passes plus I have no symptoms for 72 hours. And with this time, I shall read, cuddle the dog, sleep so as to get healthy again, refuse to stress about the future, and the obvious. Write.

God bless you all — may you stay healthy and be well in all aspects of life. To all impacted by the Coronavirus in all its potentially devastating ways, good luck. Thoughts and prayers be with you all.

 

Stranger than Fiction

So, here’s the T — I’ve been sick. My last shift at work was Friday, although I will be going back tomorrow (Wednesday). Because of this, I’ve got some thoughts on March of 2020 and the Coronavirus world as we know it.

On Friday morning, I woke up with a nasty headache. But, I get headaches, so for me, that was nothing new. Also, on Friday, the North American continent hadn’t fully exploded yet. I headed in to work.

By about 10:30, my throat was feeling a bit raw. But, I talk all day at work, and sometimes that happens. By about noon I knew something more than that was going on. Shortly after that, my boss asked if I would be willing to cover a shift at a different store the following day. I had to tell her, unfortunately, I’m not feeling great. She gave me lozenges and asked if I would like my next shift covered. I gratefully said yes.

By two, she had pulled me off the floor to work in the back. Again, I was grateful. My throat was sore. It was hard to talk. I could feel the energy dissipation happening. By the end of my shift at 4:30, I ordered a big honey citrus mint tea, drove home, then sat in my car and tried to find enough energy to get out of the car and walk inside my house. Once in, I snagged a blanket and pillow and collapsed on my couch while feeling grateful that the day before I’d hit the grocery store and managed to purchase everything we needed except — you guessed it — toilet paper.

I slept all night. Slept until noon on Saturday. Slept on and off throughout Saturday. Slept Saturday night and into Sunday. I also fielded contradicting opinions from loved ones. You should go to get checked for the virus. You should call first and then go get checked for the virus. You shouldn’t bother calling — you won’t get thru, anyway. You should definitely not go get checked for the virus. You shouldn’t bother going to get checked for the virus because you haven’t been out of the country, and you aren’t over sixty. They wouldn’t even check you for the virus even if you went in to get checked for the virus.

What was a girl to do? By Sunday I was pretty sure I just had a seasonal something or other. I didn’t have a fever, my cough was present but mild. I felt crappy. That was my most significant symptom. Yet, that nasty word asymptomatic was circling in my head. I must have read and reread the list of Coronavirus symptoms a dozen times. And, since I was home, awake but not feeling healthy enough for the mental acuity required of novel writing, I watched the news and social media posts of a world systematically closing down — all while my teenage daughter wondered what this all would mean to her Spring Break, her Volleyball league, her grade eleven classes, her social life.

By Sunday afternoon, I had started to feel like I was improving. Say what you will about our grandparents going to war and we’re just sitting on a couch, I might not be so great at quarantine. Both my daughter and I were hugely restless after being confined to the house for only two days. We took our “quarantine” on the road — and just took the car out for a drive in the sun. By the time we got back an hour later, I was out of energy, and realizing my health might not be as improved as I had believed. Well, crap. Back to the blankets for me.

I tried to write. I tried to read. I tried to avoid social media. And while I’m on that topic, lemme just say, when there is a global pandemic going on and you are home with the flu (90% sure), stupid-ass memes about the non-lethality of Coronavirus are offensive, not funny. So stfu people. All I’m saying is… Also, a status post from my friend, Trevor, gave me the jarring bit of info that thanks to my December birthday, I have jumped the fence into a higher-risk age category. I mean, still low, but not as low as five months ago. So, yeah, thanks for that, Trev!

My boss called to see how I was feeling. I told her the truth, mostly by now I am just exhausted, but I don’t see how, given the world’s emotional climate, I can return to work quite yet. I’m still coughing, and I sound congested, and I would freak people out. Fortunately, I wasn’t meant to return to work until Tuesday, so I had another day to make that decision. She let me know there were changes at work, there was also a pledge from the company that they would pay the salary of any staff member needing to self-isolate. I love my employers. Honestly, I came from a difficult work environment. Now, I work for a big company who treats its people like gold. So thankful. Insert heart emoji here.

That still left me with a conundrum. Do I stay or do I go? With the symptoms I have, I would never normally not go back to work. I’d just power through. I mean, that first shift, yeah sure. But four days later? Get real. But, these aren’t normal times. I haven’t been tested to rule out Coronavirus. So, I don’t know that I don’t have it. But, I’m not exactly sick, either. And apparently, I am wanted back at work at my earliest convenience. Something about being a steadying and reassuring presence yadayadayada. (JK. I was touched she said that.) So, how do you decide if you should self-quarantine or not? I have no idea.

And it starts to make you a bit paranoid. Which is why, Sunday night, with my sleep schedule by now completely shot and out the window, I lay in my bed taking deep breaths and listened to the slight rattle I perceived coming from my lungs. Was that pneumonia? What about that? How about that? What does pneumonia feel like? Oh, the curse of being a generally healthy human being!

Monday. I FOUND TOILET PAPER!

Monday. All Alberta and Saskatchewan schools closing and students getting an immediate pass. How is that fair? Sheena informs me that should her classes go online, she is immediately dropping Chemistry and Spanish. Still not 100% healthy, I save that fight, slot it into the should-that-day-come category of parenting.

Monday. Restaurant closures. Neighbours reporting being laid off. Theatre closures. Pool closures. Library closures. Curling club closures. OK Corral closures. West Jet closures. Basically, if it’s fun, it’s closed. I inform work I need one more day off.

Monday, tragedy strikes: Volleyball is cancelled. Teenage depression off the charts. And then…

I send out a group email to my older children. Sheena’s volleyball just got cancelled and she is sad. Anyone wanting to console her should do so. All three siblings immediately send empathetic notes. Brian and his girlfriend come over with fast food. I go out to drive my eldest daughter home from work. We compare stories. She works for Indigenous Bloom. Even they are talking about potential closures. I tell her I feel people will really panic if even the legal pot dispensaries close. We laugh. It feels good.

I return home and the youngest child greets me at the car. This means she thinks if she produces a smile cute enough, I will take her out for a drive. I balk. The fourty minute visit with the eldest daughter has exhausted me. Sheena then informs me, I am not allowed into the house as Brian and his girlfriend are working on a surprise. I drive the youngest child to 7/11 where she buys Slurpees for them, coffee for me. We return home, and the youngest son and his girl have cleaned my kitchen. As John at work says, it sparkles. Apparently, it was even my son’s idea, and then Daelyn took the reins and things got done right — fridge and stove pulled out and mopped under and everything.

I crash back onto my couch and the dog jumps on top of my hip and settles in for her nap. Brian, Sheena, and Daelyn all go out to Dae’s house. Sheena is happier than I’ve seen her all weekend. My little extrovert daughter finally has someone to talk to other than her boring, flu-y mother. I zone out, post the thirteenth picture on my phone on people’s Facebook walls. Stumble across Keith Urban, live streaming on Instagram. He’d had a concert cancelled, and it bummed him out. It is St. Patrick’s Day, after all. So, he rigged up some background tracks and some lights in the warehouse where he keeps oh so many beautiful guitars. And with wifey Nicole Kidman dancing around audience of one style, he played a thirty minute live-stream set which absolutely lifted my spirits and reminded me that the world hasn’t ended yet.

This morning, I’m at 90ish percent healthy. I get up and ready for my day, and jump onto Castanet. American news isn’t fun right now since hating Donald Trump doesn’t seem the most productive use of my energy — despite the fact that he rates his response to this crisis as a ten. That’s cool. The world can use a good laugh right now.  And to be fair, I wouldn’t want to be the leader in charge of a country right now, so yeah, whatever, Castanet it is. Micro-news is likely the best way to go at present, anyway.

And Castanet, this morning, rises to the challenge of improving my mental health.

Apparently, Keith Urban isn’t the only musician doing free concerts. Chris Martin and John Legend did, too. Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively donated a million dollars to food banks — half in the States, half in Canada. Tom and Rita were released from hospital. An Okanagan College exchange student has decided to stay in Spain so she doesn’t risk travelling and making people at home sick. She talks about people in Spain sharing items with each other, talks about people cheering the health care workers at the end of their shifts.

And I think, we get to choose who we want to be, how we want to respond. I think, we get to celebrate the resiliency of the human spirit, we get to support those in our community who are suffering as a result of March 2020. We get to take a look at what is really important, what really matters, and hopefully, carry that reminder with us through April and May and into the future when we are all up off our couches and getting back to the work of being part of both local and global citizenry.

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑