Well, dear readers, despite all my efforts to stay safe for the past two years during this global pandemic, I am sad to say that I have been infected with COVID-19.
I am still processing this fact. I started feeling poorly around 7:00 PM on Friday, January 14th. Extreme fatigue, tiredness, shortness of breath, etc. All of which I at first attributed to the week I’d had. My store’s Regional Vice President visited on Wednesday, January 12th, and I had spent more than twelve hours the day prior prepping for her visit, which was my first as General Manager. I knew she liked me already from prior visits she made when I was my store’s Assistant General Manager. I am just about as Type A as a person can be. I leave nothing to chance and always make sure my ducks are in a row.
Tuesday, January 11th was a perfect storm. As anyone who’s worked in a bookstore knows, Tuesday is the day most major publishers release their hot titles so those days are always busy with updating bestseller features, putting new product on the floor, and changing out in-store marketing. On top of that, we’ve been bombarded with after-holiday resets, sales sets, and overstock scans (oh my!). I didn’t have the manpower I’ve been enjoying because sales and foot traffic have slowed (though only marginally, following this unprecedented sales year). When I got to work, our truck shipment had arrived. The receiving area in the back of my store is chock-full of voided and overstock titles awaiting their journey back to our warehouse. And this truck was huge. So I had to play quite a few rounds of Totes Tetris to even be able to process my truck shipment.
Then, in the evening, I found out that my fellow (and only other) closer had been in a car accident early that morning and had stayed at school the rest of the day because she wasn’t having any complications or soreness. When she got to work, though, she started having shoulder pain and I made her go to the ER and closed by myself. No biggie, I’ve done it before. More than once or twice, in fact. One of my other managers volunteered to come in after her dentist’s appointment to help me get the store ready for our RVP visit. We were there until after 11:00 at night.
Had I known then what I know now…but I couldn’t have, could I? Sometime during that day, we were both exposed. She had opened that morning and came in after closing with me that night. We are both vaccinated but haven’t gotten our boosters yet, and we wore our masks at work at all times. But we still got infected.
I started writing this post after I left urgent care on Saturday, January 15th. It is Friday, January 21st. It’s only been in the past couple of days that I’ve been able to string more than one cogent thought together and even now I’m aware of the haphazard and jumbled state of my mind. Whether that’s COVID-19 itself wreaking havoc on my mental faculties or simply the by-product of being deathly ill for days on end, the effect is the same. I suppose one could call my case “mild” because I didn’t need to go to the hospital or require a ventilator, but in the world we live in, “mild” as a descriptor really doesn’t cover the hell I’ve lived in.
You see, I live in a small two-bedroom apartment with my disabled parents. My first thought when I got my test results was of their welfare, and my second thought was pure unadulterated rage at the fact that despite my best efforts at protecting them and myself, I had failed. Miserably. Wearing a mask for up to twelve hours a day wasn’t enough. Washing my hands and disinfecting things constantly wasn’t enough. Social distancing, as much as one can social distance while working in a retail store, wasn’t enough. Nothing I did was enough. I still put the two people I love most in the entire world in grave danger, and we’re still not out of the woods.
How do I reconcile all of that? How do I cope with my anger at the fact that I am supposed to return to work tomorrow when work is the farthest thing from my mind, the thing which concerns me the least? I should be staying home recuperating and caring for my parents but the god of capitalism demands a sacrifice and thus on the heap my body goes.
I forgot to mention that I discovered during all of this that my health insurance had been switched without my knowledge, so I went into urgent care thinking I’d have to pay out of pocket because I was dropped by my previous provider. I’m still working all of that out and unfortunately it’s just been one more unnecessary piece of bureaucratic red tape I’ve had to navigate to get basic care. My personal experiences have reiterated to me the urgent need we have here in America for universal healthcare, for a single-payer system. It’s unfortunate that something so essential is so politicized, with right-wingers decrying “SoCiAlIzeD mEdIcInE” every time someone mentions single-payer healthcare. Never mind the fact that Medicare is socialized medicine lite, but the Faux News pundits won’t say that. It’s okay to hold contradictions when they serve your interests, i.e. further enriching the top 1% of the top 1% while the rest of us are left with scraps, if anything at all.
I’d like to end this post on a positive (or at least lighter) note, so please enjoy the following memes I’ve saved from Twitter in the past week. Note that I am unable to provide attributions to their original creators.
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