Sunday, March 22, 2020

COVID-19 Diaries: Now That I’m an Essential Worker…

I’m going to start all my sentences with “As an essential worker.” Especially at work, where they are definitely not going to give me hazard pay, and they probably won’t even give me a badge that says “ESSENTIAL WORKER” but, as an essential worker, I deserve at least that.

If you read my last post, you’d know that I’m not a truly essential worker, like a grocery store clerk, a gas station attendant, a trucker, or a medical professional. I’m a creatively essential worker, which means that my right to continue living and enjoying my current level of freedom from major organ damage does not supersede my employer’s right to avoid the slight inconvenience of allowing me to proofread their documents from the safety of my home. As an essential worker, I cannot wait for the class-action lawsuit I'm going to benefit from in five to ten years if I survive the next 18 months. I'm already making plans for how I'm going to spend my $0.53.

I thought for a hot minute that I was maybe going to get to work from home at least half the time, when my boss sent out an email saying that we were going to an intermittent telecommuting schedule with half the team working from home one week and then swapping out with the other half the next week, but then I was informed in a second communiqué that my department is deemed essential and that I will not be allowed to work from home at all.

My boss has said that since I have “general concerns” about contracting COVID-19 due to mine and my husband’s histories of respiratory issues, I can take two weeks of PTO and then go on unpaid time. I asked if they would at least move my desk to comply with CDC recommendations that people maintain six feet of distance from one another. I told them I would come back when my desk has been moved. So far, I’ve been out for three days. It’ll be four days tomorrow because they still haven’t moved my desk yet. They have said they are moving everyone’s desks, which honestly is not a bad idea if they’re going to insist we come in. As an essential worker, I had expected them to have done it last week, and I had been prepared to go in tomorrow and risk a horrible, lonely death for $14.79 an hour and benefits, but then they told me they had not moved the desks yet, so here we are. As an essential worker, I'm taking it one day at a time, like an alcoholic. That's just one thing that I, as an essential worker, have in common with alcoholics, by which I mean, I need a drink.

Most of my company’s other employees have been put on work from home already, so at least they won’t be milling around the building, breathing on us. As an essential worker, I find this both comforting and infuriating. As an essential worker, I want to get breathed on as little as possible at this juncture, so I plan to avoid the break rooms and elevators. As an essential worker, I know I won’t get breathed on in the stairwell because they are mostly used as dust bunny storage.

File:Geant des flandres 101.JPG
Actual photo of one of the dust bunnies.
Image by Eponimm on Wikimedia Commons

As an essential worker, I’ll probably make my own cold brew coffee to take in with me so I don’t have to touch the possibly contaminated Starbucks coffee maker in the definitely contaminated break room, the silver lining of which will be that I won’t have to drink Starbucks coffee. One of my three dozen cousins suggested that I go to work in a Hazmat suit and spray anyone who gets close to me with Lysol, but alas, even if I had a Hazmat suit handy – and as an essential worker, I could probably improvise one out of garbage bags and duct tape – there is no Lysol to be had. If I could get my hands on it, I’d be using it to disinfect my mail, not wasting it harassing my coworkers, who, let’s be honest, are also victims in this. Someone else suggested a Super Soaker full of cat pee, and as luck would have it, I do have access to a few sources of cat pee – but honestly, I feel like the situation really calls for a flame thrower. As an essential worker, I would like to burn it all down.

Of course, I can’t do that, for legal reasons.


  1. That's too bad you have to go into the office to work. I hope they moved your desk! Stay safe out there!

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