The Reckoning (COVID-19)

During this time, we all have many things to reckon with. My biggest one, so far, has been: How important are our jobs in the city? I have always known that my services as a pet carer are a luxury. That’s not true for my friends the supers, the doormen, and the housekeepers. (Well—more accurately—it’s not as true.) These past two weeks they have been scrambling, disinfecting doors, distributing endless shipments of food and toiletries, and fielding panicked calls from the tenants. My work, up until I began isolating on Sunday, remained stealthy; I slipped in and out. If I had not come to walk the dogs, they might not have noticed. And now, they are with their dogs. Me, I’m parked on the couch.

I’ve arranged my business and my lifestyle on purpose to be like this. I love that they want me, but I don’t want anyone to need me. And now that I have my own guilty luxury—of free time, time to reflect—I am thinking of all the workers we really do need. I hold special regard for the ones that sell us food. My local supermarket has been busy every day. These people need big raises. They don’t get, like, a commission for each item they scan the barcode of. It’s time, too, to be evaluating how to give money to our favorite restaurants now that they can’t serve food at the brisk pace they’re used to. I want to just go around some morning dropping off envelopes of cash, but that is my old way. These days it is risky to “go around” doing anything.

Medical workers, as we know, are heroes under any circumstance and especially now. How will we repay our doctors, nurses and EMTs, not once they’re out of danger, but right now, today?

For us, the (healthy) non-essential, our very notion of “work” has been suspended. Our city will look so different when we emerge on the other side. Just yesterday, I was hugely uplifted by a simple walk around the neighborhood and some time on a park bench, far from other people; how long before I get back to that as my daily routine? In the meantime, I will miss it so much, the animals, the streets… life. A big man at the concierge desk of one of the big buildings where I walk dogs told me two weeks ago that, soon, I wouldn’t see him anymore: he was retiring. I shook his hand. Then in the confusion, I forgot to go visit him on his last day. I’m thinking of him now—his decades of service, and how we will never again see the same Manhattan where he worked.

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