The end of this extremely long holiday is coming to an end. Seven weeks. Nearly, two months without worrying about my job. Worrying in the sense of going to bed at decent times. Setting the alarm clock. Making my two meals for a 12 hour shift. Wondering what magazine or book I should take in case I have some free time. Working 7 PM to 7 AM, I usually having some free time.
This is the third week in a row that I was preparing to go back to work. I started getting notices that it would be the first weekend in May. That was quickly changed to the next weekend. I began getting prepared. Got my meals made. My backpack loaded with my work shoes, odd medications, and other trivial stuff for work, as well as a book. Then the call came that we would wait till at least mid-week depending on what the Prime Minister said.
He said, we can work, yet we should probably stay home. He said not to use public transport unless of course you need to use it. By the end of his talk, I was more confused than I was before it. Instead of staying alive we were told stay alert. Say what? I’ve been alert. I’ve stayed two meters away from others. Except for grocery shopping and an occasional medical appointment I have stayed home. When I’m in a store or on public transport I use a mask. More to protect you than to protect myself.
After his talk, I waited to find out when I would return to work. I guess my employer was just as confused because for the next three days my phone and e-mail remained quiet. Finally, on the fourth day I hear we would be reopening on Monday, the 18th of May.
For the last seven weeks the major decision of my day has been what movie would I watch tonight? I have watched more movies in this time than I have in my whole lifetime. Now I need to get back into work mode. Find my work clothes. Have a shower and shave. Hopefully, my wife will cut my hair. Later, I’ll look on-line for train schedules and begin final preparations for my journey to work.
I’m grateful for the chance to get back to work. I’m thankful that my employer believes that I am worthy of returning to work. Yet, I’m also anxious about the return. I work at a major transportation hub in the north of England. When things are running smoothly there is no way that social distancing can be maintained. While I have had this job for a few years, Monday will seem like day one. New rules. New regulations. It won’t be just that way for me but for everyone who has been on furlough.
I’ve read stories from America, where store employees have been mugged and even shot because they denied entry to a person without a mask, or they were walking the wrong way in a store. Everyone is going to be on edge. Whether they admit it or not, everyone will be a bit fearful. When is the last time you walked down a crowded street bumping into people. It used to be normal. Everyone in a rush to get where they needed to be. The sidewalks have been empty and the roads quiet.
Many businesses won’t return. Many employees won’t have a job waiting for them. Many people have become ill. Many people have died. I wonder when will I be safe to shake someone’s hand, or give a supportive hug to someone? When will we be able to have company over and not worry if they are sick or not?
Three years ago I had treatment for throat cancer. The treatment has left me with an occasional dry hacking cough. I’ve become paranoid with this. Every time I cough, I get strange looks then folks moving away from me. I remain quiet knowing why I’m coughing, yet I so much want to explain this uncontrollable cough of mine. I also admit that I look at others quite sceptically when they cough or sneeze.
I have friend who survived Covid 19. He was in the hospital for three weeks. One week spent in Intensive Care. He has admitted that there was a time he wanted to quit. He couldn’t breathe and the pain was unbearable. He has been verbally attacked in stores because of his cough. A cough that he will have for the rest of his life. Unlike me, he has tried explaining it to the people that point fingers at him, only to be met with a cold shoulder. Not one apology from those who were quick to judge. It’s a brave new world. Something we are all a part of. I admit it’s something I’m a bit nervous about, yet I can find comfort that I’m not alone in these uncertain times.
Just think how strange it will be to go out to a restaurant and then catch a movie. How rewarding it will feel to go to a concert or a sporting event. That day will come and we’ll give each other high fives! We will survive. We’ll share stories with our kids and grandkids about how we survived and remember those that have died.
Until that time comes, I’ll go to work. I’ll stay alert by using common sense. I’ll be polite and courteous with those that appear healthy and strong, as well as those who are coughing and ill. After all, at the end of the day we are all one. We are all brothers and sisters and we’ll spend our eternity together.