The Early Days

October 2019 Salem, Massachusetts

I never imagined life would be as it is now. Leisure and worry mingle with much needed forced relaxation. We are living in the era of coronavirus. New Year’s Eve began as any other night. Exhausted, I was barely able to stay awake to watch the ball drop. My life has been busy, barely time to stop. Rest. Stop thinking. Even now my mind cannot rest. I have to always be reading something. The year 2020 started slow as we readied ourselves for the dreaded Valentine’s Day rush. I am a floral designer and as much as I love flowers it is all I can do to keep myself going during that time. Pushing for that next hour, minute, second before I can lay my head on my pillow for what amounts to a nap before repeating it again the next day. Little did I realize that not long after the holiday the entire world would be turned upside down by an “invisible” being wreaking havoc on the health and economy of society.

We survived Valentine’s Day, all the while I am attending classes and keeping up with homework. I was in my last semester of college. This would be the year I would finally walk the stage at graduation. Our cruise was set for March, yet all our lives were setup for a disaster movie except the disaster would come from inside out taking down anyone exposed. An internal invasion of the bodies of many. We lived our lives, unsuspecting. Hearing far off that there was some kind of virus hitting Wuhan, China. I thought little of it, my invincible American mindset comfortable it would never reach our shores. Covid-19 had different ideas. For the first time in my lifetime something would take control of nearly the entire planet shutting it down in a way that could only be imagined for a movie script.

I had worked so much during Valentine’s week that I could not even count the hours. I had worn my body down and the usual after holiday colds began to circulate in the shop. I missed almost a week of work. I had not been sick to this degree in a long time, usually I go to work and power through it. This time I was knocked out, my insides tired; my cells screaming for rest. This was not THE virus which had yet to really become known but had made its way to Boston. In January, just before Spring semester began, a student where I went to college had recently returned from Wuhan going straight to health services only to be diagnosed with the virus. He was immediately quarantined and has since recovered. He is one of the lucky ones. Around the same time news came out of Washington state of a nursing home with mass infection, hospitalizing patients, and workers.

Life went as normal in our part of the country, riding the T to work, masses of people as cities tend to have all around. I even had one customer lick his finger before handing me his money. I washed my hands after dealing with him then put the interaction aside, moving on. Living life. Going home. Finally taking Zumba and Yoga classes again. I was determined, managing to fit everything into a life spent commuting so much. Planning an end of the semester talent show for the Global Cultures Club. Working at the Study Abroad offices. Fielding questions of upcoming overseas semesters no one could yet answer. Life kept chugging along like the train I rode each day, using the time to fit in the next book I was required to read for one of my classes, grateful for the commute and the time it gave me. No wariness to be felt from the other passengers’ breath. Yet small changes were becoming evident, a small change here, a small change there. Possible exposures beginning with a string of people volunteering to work from home. Just in case. All the while the virus is growing in unsuspecting victims, asymptomatically spreading from person to person. No script could be better written.

March brought the next phase of awareness of the depth of the danger of this virus when it was leaked in the The Boston Globe that many employees of a local pharmaceutical company and attendees to conferences held at the end of February were testing positive for Covid-19. It had really hit our shores. The shores of Boston sending the virus on to other states and countries. Boston was just one location where the virus was surfacing. It was then the world was beginning to realize that large amounts of people could not spend time in such close proximity of each other with an incubation period beginning at two weeks. No one knew who a carrier was or if a small cough or sniffle meant a cold, allergies or worse. New York City would soon become the coronavirus epicenter of the United States and the world.

Yet, life went on. The building our shop was located was still full of people although we started slowing down and the cancellations for corporate parties began. The hotel where the convention took place closed. California then New York began to be in the news a lot, cases were popping up in greater numbers. The recommendations for temporarily closing businesses began until governors decided it was time to issue stay at home orders; something that would only happen in Boston if there was a blizzard in normal times. I would turn on the news and all the talk was the virus, the changing precautions, the changing effects, the changing ways it can be transmitted and passed on. Wear a mask. Do not wear a mask because healthcare workers need it. Wear a mask.

Hospitals began to fill up. Equipment was scarce. Only essential businesses could stay open, everyone else is asked to stay home unless absolutely necessary.

Toilet paper began to disappear from shelves in droves.

Hand sanitizer began to fly off the shelves.

Disinfectant wipes became hot commodities.

The price gougers came out of their cracks in the wall.

Pets soon received undivided attention.

The underpaid became the heroes.

The careless spread disease during spring break. The mantra being: “I’m young and healthy. If I get it, I’ll be fine.” Their selfishness and unawareness of others’ vulnerability becoming apparent. No consideration they could carry the virus to an unsuspecting grandparent or low immune person and cause their death. It is these people who angered me the most. Who cares if you have to cancel a vacation for the sake of another’s health? I had to cancel my cruise. My celebration of four years of working as well as attending college, both full time. Sundays my only day off. This was going to be a chance to see a part of the world I had never seen with the two people who have been by my side through all.

Sure, I was disappointed, but I would much rather stay healthy and help ensure others stay healthy. There is disappointment in life. I am alive. I am healthy. I am one of the lucky ones. This virus does not care of age or who you are, but as we have learned it does care about race and economic standing and this is not because the virus knows who to choose but it is a consequence of a society built on the backs of those less fortunate or forced into a position in life where they cannot receive the proper care because of the color of their skin or the country they seek refuge from. A systemic, now being fully addressed since George Floyd’s unnecessary and cruel death at the hands or should I say callous knee of a heartless police officer witnessed by anyone with a television, smartphone, or social media. A spark had been enflamed. A movement awakened in the hearts of the complacent; a forgotten beat at the center. The murderer, a man meant to protect not harm. A subject which I will speak of more in a different piece.

Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Forbes via Getty Images

I was still really tired. I called work and told them I was not feeling well and was not going in. The fear had taken over. My boss was concerned since I had been exposed to someone who had been exposed to someone who had tested positive. No one really knowing much about the virus as of yet. I had gone to health services and they assured me that the degree of separation was enough to confirm I had not contracted it. To be safe, my boss and I decided I should self quarantine for two weeks. Two weeks had almost gone by when he decided to close the shop; a few days later the governor told all nonessential businesses to close. The way life had been lived was forever changed. The days of building my own burger at Fuddruckers were over.

3 thoughts on “The Early Days

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  1. A lot of thought and effort went into this Jennifir. it’s a marvellous piece of work altogether. I’m so proud of all your achievements at UMass Boston. There will always be the chance of another cruise,so no worries there! better be safe than sorry. So many fine people have lost their lives due to the C.V. it’s unreal. We simply have to be patient,resilient,and hopeful that it too shall pass,and that we, as a people, will emerge as a stronger more tolerant as a result.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You have captured the life changing, global experience in a heartfelt description from your personal experience. I watched as you enjoyed earning your degree, as you exhausted yourself designing and producing floral art. I was so looking forward to very proudly cheering you as you received your diploma and sharing your graduation cruise. Of the current troubles I remind myself of a line from a speech by Abraham Lincoln: “It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: ‘And this, too, shall pass away.'” Goodness will return, stronger because of our present turmoil. The new year will be born of hope and renewal. And cruises!! Lol
    I am so proud of you. I love you.

    Liked by 1 person

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