I LEFT WORK EARLY TODAY

I left work early today…I came home, sat down here at my desk and I cried. Only for a few moments, only a little. But I cried.

I can’t say whether this is a blessing or a curse, but throughout my entire life, I have always worn my emotions on my sleeve…I cry easily, I laugh easily, I get angry quickly, I get frustrated in a trice, I love hard and hate even harder. It is who I am, like it or not.

As you may be aware, I work part-time for Publix Supermarkets, a large regional grocery chain here in Florida and across the Southeast; my official title is “Front Service Clerk”, which is Publix’ corporate jargon for a “bagger” (a ten dollar word for a three dollar job). I’m at the store where I work between 20 and 24 hours every week, and for the most part, it’s a good gig.

Or at least it was until the advent of the coronavirus and Covid-19.

Now it’s a minefield, it’s a disaster zone, it’s a potential death-trap, a place of stress and tension and somewhere I’m terrified I’m going to die. Between being half-nuts from the constant fear, low grade I admit but always there, and the on-going battle to keep our customers happy and yet safe, in spite of all their attempts to thwart our best efforts, our cozy, warm little store, a place where our customers could come, buy their groceries or their pick-up meals or whatever and be greeted by and interact with a staff they know, get called by their names and have a “visit” that is pleasant, quick or leisurely (their choice) and get a smile and some kind words as they leave with their bags of joy, is no longer.

That all disappeared with the advent of the coronavirus and Covid-19.

I don’t need to work; I’m retired and I wouldn’t starve without the money. But the income that I get from Publix makes my car payment and after that, I bank the rest (actually I’m buying up Publix stock as fast as I can with the surplus). And I promised myself when I took my Social Security at 62 that I would continue to work part-time at some brainless, minimum-wage job until I had all the $$$ I felt I would need once I actually hang them up for good, and it’s a promise I intend to keep.

Up until recently, my job at Publix has provided me with an opportunity to be out with folks a few days every week, increase my retirement fund, lease a new car and make some excellent friends.

Despite the occasional asshole customer or a frustrating new company policy, it was, as I said, a good gig…but that is no more. It was gone with the advent of the coronavirus and Covid-19.

Where I was once the funniest guy in the place, I am now constantly tense and on edge, afraid at some level, overt or subtle, all the time. I’m frustrated because I feel like the “blue line cop” from asking people to please practice social distancing and stay back until I’m finished bagging their order. I’m worried about my fellow associates, who are, with a handful of notable exceptions, good, decent people just trying to get by each day; some of them need their jobs and come to work even though I’m sure they’d stay home if they could afford to do so; some of them continue to work based on a strong sense of dedication; some of the older associates work there a few hours a week so their lives don’t become stagnant, and some of those folks have left, promising to return when “things get back to normal” and I’m very concerned for all of them and for those of us still clocking in regularly.

Because nowadays, “normal” is the coronavirus and Covid-19.

I don’t sleep worth a damn these days…I wake up to pee just about every night at some point, usually around 2:00am, and then lie there wide awake, worrying. Did I remember to disinfect my wallet and car-keys, did I wipe down the light switches and counters, shit, I forgot to boil my mask (disinfect over a boiling pot of water), is tomorrow going to be the day that I win the big Mega-Covid-19 Super Lotto and end up dead in a month, is my family okay, who’s going to take care of me if I get sick, how the fuck did I get involved in this horror picture that is currently showing at a theatre near every damn one of us every minute of every damn day, gimme’ an “F” and what does that spell, kids?

It’s a word that rhymes with “truck” and that’s exactly what I wish I had right now so I could drive my fat ass off this picture and escape to someplace safe.

Someplace where my life won’t be impacted by the coronavirus and Covid-19.

I cried today because I’m afraid, I’m tense, I’m worried and I’m slightly disgusted with myself for being all of the above.

But like so many people, maybe everyone, I’ve never been through anything like this…I’m overwhelmed.

I’ve never experienced anything like the coronavirus and Covid-19.

And besides being worried and scared and concerned and whatever, I’m also damned angry…I’m angry because of the way my life has been turned upside down by the coronavirus and Covid-19.

I’m fucking angry.

I am one of the strongest persons I know…I bow to no one and I fear little. But this awful bug, this horrible, disgusting disease, this motherfucker has me bowing down in terror before it, groveling like a shivering dog standing with its tail between its legs in front of a cruel, sadistic master.

I hate being afraid, hate it, and that’s what the coronavirus and Covid-19 have made me.

So I sat today and cried a little…I’m not ashamed that I did nor to tell you about it. And the worst? Now that I’m done, I feel no better…I’m still afraid, I’m still angry and I don’t see this ending very soon.

I don’t let anyone intimidate me, anyone or anything. I fully intend to survive coronavirus and Covid-19. (I know that sounds like “whistling while you walk past the cemetery in the dark” but if someone has a better attitude to have to cope with this mess, please share it with me.)

I told my boss, a truly wonderful lady named Katrina, that I was also taking off tomorrow as well and that I wouldn’t be back until Tue, my next scheduled day to work; she not only understood, she encouraged me. (I’d walk through fire for that woman and enjoy the stroll.) I need some time to process all that’s taking place in my life right now.

The coronavirus and Covid-19…two phrases it wouldn’t break my heart if I never heard again in life.

To all the folks who have lost a loved one to Covid-19, to anyone who is battling this horrible disease, to all those who have lost jobs, either fired or laid off, and are now struggling just to eat and pay the rent, to all the other “essential” workers out there busting their butts to accommodate all those who depend on them and especially to all those people, like myself, reeling from the impact of Covid-19 on their lives, to all those poor, scared persons, I cannot tell you how much my heart goes out to you all.

I have been there and done that and you have my deepest sympathy and empathy.

If we ever get back to normal, I’m going to have a shirt made up…over a drawing of the coronavirus it will say “I Survived Covid-19…” and underneath it will say “…And All I Got Was This Lousy Tee-shirt!”

And my life back, without fear and anger, I so sincerely hope.

Love and vaccines,

Cap’n John