Since I work in emergency management, my supervisor has been urging our team to document our experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s good advice; nothing of this magnitude has happened in the recent past and it’s obviously fucking up a lot of our established paradigms. When experts say we won’t be able to return to the way things were Before and we need to embrace a “new normal”, they aren’t exaggerating. COVID-19 has shaken human society in a way even our recent megaquakes, which have literally shaken the entire globe, could do. So it’s good advice, yes. The problem is just that everything I have to share is so gods-damned bleak and I don’t want to seem like I’m whining when others have it much worse. I guess there’s wisdom in the telling, though, and I’m sure I’ll value these words years down the road, so here goes. I’ll go easy on you and start with…
In July 2019 I made a much-needed career pivot into my dream field of emergency management. I was hired by the Washington State Emergency Management Division (WA EMD) as a Tsunami Program Coordinator, and thus my day job consists of preparing locals for The Big One. For the last 3+ months, however, WA EMD has been activated for the COVID-19 response. This is unlike anything WA EMD has faced before and so it’s all hands on deck 24/7. That means instead of worrying about being laid off or furloughed, I’m actually working more hours than ever. My team is currently on a three-week rotation, meaning for two weeks I work my normal job and then the next week I’m activated Sunday through Saturday for 7 12-hour shifts in the state’s Emergency Operations Center. Not only is the extra pay providing a much needed financial buffer (you’ll see why), I’m receiving some great hands-on experience. No amount of online or classroom training can really prepare you the way an actual disaster can, so even though I’m way outside of my comfort zone I’m very conscious of how good this work is for me. I’m also relatively healthy, at least immune-system-wise, and glad I can help the effort to keep others safe. It’s pretty surreal to be even a tiny cog in this great machine. That being said, here’s…
I AM SO STRESSED. Between work stress, personal life stress, and all these concurrent global crises, I am absolutely filled to the brim with stress. And lucky me, my stress always manifests as flare ups of my various chronic illnesses. These days I’m just constant IBS stomach aches, migraines, carpal tunnel pain, angular cheilitis, exhaustion that’s apparently at least partly narcolepsy, and some weird uterus stuff that I’m super hoping isn’t fibroids. It’s a lot. I’m honestly surprised my shingles hasn’t come back yet, but I’m sure it’s just biding its time. On top of that, my mental health wasn’t particularly stable going into this pandemic and weirdly enough witnessing preventable death on a mass scale because those in power care more about propping up the corpse of late-stage capitalism than saving lives isn’t exactly helping. So enter the panic attacks, severe depression, and uncontrollable dermatillomania. My wife has been wonderful, though, and is basically the reason I haven’t had an actual breakdown yet. Which brings me to…
I might be more willing to find the bright side of this whole mess if it wasn’t for everything that’s happened with my wife. Just thinking about it makes me so angry I’m having trouble getting the words out so I’ll give you the tl;dr version. My wife is a truly amazing person and the world enjoys crushing her for having the audacity to be queer, Asian, and chronically ill, among other things. When COVID-19 went down she was working for a company that pretends to be progressive but is really just out for the money (what a surprise). On top of that, her position required her to be stationed in a major retail space which is considered essential and therefore never closed, nor has ever really bothered to put any employee protection measures in place. Since she has severe asthma and catches pneumonia on practically a yearly basis, my wife and I were understandably very concerned about her being in such a public-facing position. COVID-19 could quite frankly be a death sentence for her (which I think about constantly because Anxiety).
Anyway, flash forward like 2 miserable months and her employer has not only refused every accommodation she’s requested, they are actively punishing her for asking. Last week they used a note from her doctor as an excuse to cut her hours enough that she’ll lose her health insurance at the end of the month. IN A PANDEMIC. This was the final straw (she’s been taking their shit for years) and I’m proud to say she walked right the fuck out of there. Problem solved, right? Except just to twist the knife a little more, they’re refusing to give her a letter stating when her benefits will end so I can add her to my insurance plan – a technically legal but absolutely unnecessary delay that will probably force her to go without health insurance for at least all of May. Again, IN A PANDEMIC. I really can’t express how cruel they’re being without sounding like I’m a conspiracy theorist, but it’s true, and it’s happening to countless other people right now because Capitalism™. This instance just especially hurts me in particular because she’s MY people.
But wait, there’s more! Yeah, we’re not done. So on top of dealing with aaaallll this shit, my wife is also being regularly harassed in public because of her race. Yes, even in western Washington, bastion of progress (that was sarcasm) and home to a pretty sizeable Asian population. It happens every single time she goes somewhere and if it wasn’t for her refusal to let me come with her I might be in jail right now with several murder charges to my name. It’s the fucking worst. If the various feel-good COVID-19 stories ever had a chance to renew my hope in humanity, that chance has been thoroughly crushed. We really are in the Darkest Timeline.
So that’s a brief glimpse into how my pandemic is going. Which is great. Everything is great and totally fine.
…Oh right, I was supposed to record some of my observations, not just wordvomit about my life in particular. Uh, here are some non-me-centric observations for history or whatever in no particular order:
– Traffic is so light that someone has been doing donuts on the Narrows Bridge, which is fairly impressive.
– Traffic has also been so light that I can see the Olympic Mountains every night as I drive home, something usually only possible on the clearest summer days. So that’s cool, but also horribly depressing because that means the reason I don’t see them as often is air pollution.
– You ever think about how there are probably a lot of kids who are only alive right now because schools closed so early in the year that their would-be school shootings never happened?
– You can’t find wheat tortillas anywhere right now. Who’s hoarding all the wheat tortillas?- I hate to be all “I was right” but when Trump got elected I totally predicted a wide scale disaster would hit the west coast and he’d deny us aid because we’re blue states. I just thought it would be a megaquake, not a pandemic. So close.
Anyway. Have a good apocalypse everyone!