All in this together?
Lawn signs sprouting in my suburban neighborhood state: "Graduating Class of 2020 — #AllInThisTogether." Our seniors chose that message, no doubt, because it's in use everywhere. But one more pronouncement of our so-called "togetherness" may make me scream. Across the country, some are more "in this" than others. It's all a matter of being essential. Or not. Or caught at a particularly good (or not so good) stage of your life or career. How do you prepare for the unexpected?
My dentist is non-essential. It's impossible to offer virtual dental services. Too bad for those who have gone without dental care for more than two months now. My dentist owns and operates a small business. I wonder how long can he continue to pay the rent without any income. Yet government workers and members of our news media are essential. Who makes these decisions: essential and non-essential? Using what criteria? I'm happy for those deemed essential and those who can work virtually. I'm delighted that a few stores continue to be open. However, that left a huge swath of the population wondering where the next paycheck will come from.
My hairdresser has been allowed (allowed!) to re-open her home-based business starting next week so long as she operates at 25% capacity of her former load. Too bad for the many customers who have waited for months for the regular services she performs for them such as perms and colorizations and cuts. She has only one hair-cutting station. Exactly how will she operate at 25% capacity? How will she deal with the pent-up demand of her regular customers? Did a measly government handout make up for more than two months of lost revenue, money that her household relied on but lost one day with no notice?
My ophthalmologist owns a cataract and laser clinic. It's a slick; well managed; and, I suspect, highly leveraged operation. No doubt most of the 40 or more highly skilled doctors, nurses, and technicians along with a host of loyal and customer-oriented administrative staff members have been laid off. Temporarily. For several months. How long can this entrepreneurial man continue to keep the lights on with the overhead he took on without ever knowing that the government could shut him down overnight? Too bad for eye patients who were in the middle of a two-part process (one eye one week and the other eye one or two weeks later). Try to get glasses for that condition. It's only temporary, though. Shouldn't be a problem, right?
What about my optometrist? Here's another doctor who offers routine eye checkups, glasses, and more. When the doors began slamming shut in mid-March, he worried that his cash reserves would last only a month. His two staff members have been laid off, and he is getting unemployment compensation. Will that pay the rent? Will he be able to reopen? Too bad for those who have ongoing vision problems or developing conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, and retinal problems.
I think of all the doctors who have been unable to see patients for the past several months: cardiologists, oncologists, and so many more with patients whose conditions have not been suspended for the time being. Too bad for them. They are not magically improving while waiting to be seen sometime later when the goalposts stop moving. And the physicians — essential to their patients — are sequestered at home, picking up unemployment checks?
I worry about all those in the tourism and travel industry whose lives changed overnight — restaurant staff, hotel staff, resort staff — and those in the entertainment industry — movie theater, coliseum, and convention center staffs. Also performers of all stripes: musicians, singers, and actors whose shows were abruptly canceled. Are they non-essential?
What about those who had family events such as weddings, anniversaries, family picnics, Easter events, and birthdays canceled?
Graduations? Did those students receive anything like a full year of knowledge or skills this year? Do they truly qualify to proceed to the next educational level? It's not their fault that they lost a semester of schooling this year due to the abruptness of the changes in their education. But in all honesty, what have they accomplished in the tumult? Those who were already engaged in homeschooling were able to stay the course. Too bad for the many families who were caught in the riptide of new virtual office arrangements, daycare needs, and homeschooling requirements.
In spite of the cataclysm of lost work, lost pay, and completely reshuffled priorities, most of the people I know are bravely smiling. They believed that it was only temporary, after all, and we can do just about anything when there is an end in sight. As far as I am concerned, Easter should have been the end of "temporary." Not Memorial Day. Certainly not the Fourth of July.
We're all in this together, are we? Not at all. Some are more "in this" than others. Let my people go!
Karen Larson is mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore. She has been at the bottom of several companies and at the top of one. She has been a wordsmith and the one who wields the red pen. She is a parent with grandchildren biological and otherwise. Now retired, she enjoys sailing on Lake Superior with her husband, Jerry, among her many hobbies.