At Least I Can Get Pot Delivered

At Least I Can Get Pot Delivered
Illustration: Elena Scotti/GO Media

Are you a frontline worker dealing with new stresses or irresponsible management? Is working (or not working) from home starting to take a psychological toll? How are you coping with reopening? Submit a story using this Google form or send me an email with the subject line “My Covid Story” and provide as much detail as you’re comfortable with.

Authors’ identities have been verified, and submissions have been edited for length, grammar, and clarity.

Aarón Flores, data analyst, Mexico

On March 17th or 18th we were sent home and told to work from there, unless our jobs required physical presence. The company would not provide guidance, equipment, nor tools to do it appropriately, and it did feel as if it took everyone by surprise.

In the first week of April we had a call with the HR director. She told us that, given the recession that was unfolding due to the pandemic, our salaries would be cut in half to preserve cash flow, beginning on April and possibly until June. This, she said, would be a temporary retention of our salaries, and the half that was being retained would be paid out before the end of the year. We were also promised a document that could hold up in court explaining the situation.

Fast forward to July: the pandemic is still raging on and the economical turmoil decimated at least 13 million jobs — according to the National Institute of Statistics (INEGI) — around 1/5th of the Mexican workforce. The temporary retention of our salary was extended indefinitely, with no end in sight. HR won’t give answers about the situation. (The HR director was promoted to COO, despite there not being enough cash for the rest of the employees, and now doesn’t really have time to answer emails.) We still haven’t gotten a legal document that explains the salary retention.

My contract was supposed to be renewed on July 20th. On Friday, July 17th, I was told my contract wouldn’t be renewed, despite the VP of Sales advocating for me and the impact that I’ve driven in the organisation. I had a 10-minute call with some outsourced lawyer, whom I had never met before, who reassured me the transition would be smooth — I would have an exit interview and be able to at least close down my pending conversations. 30 minutes after he hung up, I was locked out of the company’s digital accounts.

The last three weeks have been a living nightmare. The HR department never answered my messages; the same lawyer who lied to me on the phone before, cheated his way to get a signature from me on a form that specified I wouldn’t sue them; I had to attend the office twice (located in the heart of the Mexican pandemic, in Mexico City) and, on my last visit, was treated like a criminal, when they called for security to remove me. Deciding that I wasn’t worth a proper termination, they offered me approximately 70% of what they owe me and issued a non-binding document that says they will pay me in several installments. I have received nothing yet.

I just hope they pay me what they promised.

Huck, photo/video production, California

When the “stay-at-home” order went out for Los Angeles in mid-March, my company told all employees to work from home until told otherwise. Fortunately, I was able to shift my work to producing live streams from home instead of producing photo and video shoots in person. My girlfriend (we’ve since gotten engaged; we figured if we can spend every moment together for months, we’re gonna be OK) lost almost all of the freelance jobs she was working and had to file for unemployment. That was a headache unto itself as she would sit on hold for hours in the middle of the night trying to get through, which she finally did and got approved. Meanwhile, I was fortunate enough to have a small office room in our house that I turned into a decent working space (media professionals need a lot of monitors, hard drives, and equipment.) I also used to teach martial arts on the weekends, but my dojo had to shutdown and go all virtual for a number of months.

The first few months weren’t too bad. I got used to working from home. My fiance got unemployment and picked up a virtual tutoring gig for a family with 3 young kids to make some more money on the side. My company guaranteed every employee’s job through the pandemic, and aside from the initial hassle of figuring out how to grocery shop during a pandemic, we were doing OK. Eventually, my company tried an initial reopening to let a small percentage of employees go back into the office if they needed to (no one was required to go in.) Then my dojo was able to reopen for in-person training (socially distant, with masks on of course, which is still really difficult for martial artists as so much of our training relies on making contact with our fellow students.)

California tried to open too early and the cases started spiking again. My company put a hold on reopening any further. My fiance and I stopped going to large chain grocery stores because it was just too many people at once. We constantly battled with both of our families over them not taking the pandemic seriously enough. Her family are LA liberals, so they were at least easier to manage than my Republican parents back in Georgia. And don’t get me started on having conversation with my family about Black Lives Matter.

Then two weeks ago, I found out that I was in a high risk category because of my chronic kidney disease. I’ve been stage-2 for years, no dialysis, and wasn’t at high risk until the CDC and WHO did some studies over the last month that showed that anyone with kidney disease was at a greater risk of developing severe complications from a covid-19 infection. My whole mindset had to change. I went from being concerned with getting other people sick, to suddenly having to worry about getting sick myself. I had to pull back on what I could do in person for my company. We switched to only doing grocery delivery instead of going to even smaller markets. I had to put off testing for my next rank in my martial arts because at the advance rank I have, I can’t test without making contact and I don’t feel safe doing that with anyone now. On top of all this, my fiance’s $US600 ($836)/week federal unemployment benefits expired, and we’re worried her state benefits might expire soon too. And now I’m having what my doctor thinks might be mild anxiety attacks, which is crazy because I’ve always been an extremely calm person who handles stress very well. We did spend a little extra money to upgrade our yard over the last few weeks because with my high risk status, we wanted to at least be able to do more things outside.

It’s been a rough few weeks and we’re just trying to survive however we can now. It’s hard to say what the future holds. We don’t know when we’ll be able to have a wedding, or if we’ll be able to visit my family anytime soon.

But at least pot is legal and deliverable in LA. So there’s that.

Everything Seemed to Just… Stop

Are you a frontline worker dealing with new stresses or irresponsible management? Is working (or not working) from home starting to take a psychological toll? How are you coping with reopening? Submit a story using this Google form or send me an email with the subject line “My Covid Story” and...

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Anonymous, food service, Midwest U.S.

My company works with schools, prisons, hospitals, and businesses to provide food services of varying levels. I work at a large pharmaceutical company’s headquarters in the catering department, supplying everything from just coffee to full plated meals for meetings and receptions. The location I am at was the first locally to “shut down”. Everyone that could work from home was told to do so, but the manufacturing plant was kept open as always, running 24-7. With no office workers on site there were no more meetings, so no more work for my department of 10 people.

We were brought together and given the options: two people were needed to provide meals five days a week for testing staff (we also became the default local testing site); the rest of us would either be out of work or sent to the manufacturing campus in town to provide free meals to workers on 3rd shift.

Given the staffing hierarchy and health concerns of others I volunteered to work the 3rd shift thinking it would be a couple of weeks, maybe a month. I’m going on five months of nights 7 pm- 1 am Tuesday through Saturday.

I am married and my wife works a normal day schedule Monday through Friday. At best we pass each other in the door most days and have Sunday afternoons together if I’m not at my part time job or sleeping. Normally I would work a couple evenings a week at my part time job in a bike shop, but since I’m not available for my “normal” shifts there, and the day staff there are all full-time, I’m only working Saturdays and some Sundays.

I’ve gone from working 40 hours a week at my day job and about 15-20 hours at my side job, with time with my wife, to working 30 hours a week at my “day” job, 8-to-12 hours at the bike shop, and almost never seeing my wife. I’ve gone from cooking for the CEO, CFO, board of directors — meals from scratch that I am proud of — to manning a sandwich station (think Subway) overnight for factory workers that are rude to us.

When this new life started the company I am at was paying for free food for their staff as a thank you, along with bonuses for them. My company gave us nothing. From day one the factory workers tried to get everything they could. I don’t blame them, but when we had to enforce the limits set by their company we were the arseholes and took the brunt of their anger. Complaints of small servings, lack of options, general rudeness and entitlement were the norm, even though it was all free for them and they had never had onsite food service during this shift before.

At the start of July, the free meals program ended. During the free meal period we would serve 30-40 people a night, not enough to fill the whole shift but enough to feel productive and worthwhile. Now I’ve had many nights where I served one single person. I’ve completely disrupted my life to sit in this cafeteria for 6 hours a night to make one turkey sandwich. I am getting my normal hourly rate, but my hours have been cut by 10 per week. So I am making money, not enough to be comfortable, just enough to keep going. And since I am “working”, I don’t qualify for unemployment assistance. I couldn’t quit and get unemployment, as that is not covered.

Why don’t I go somewhere else? I’ve got 25 years in food service in restaurants, hotels, and now this job for 6 years. I like “MY” job, but not this job. I just want “MY” job back. Plus the local restaurant environment is completely screwed at the moment. If a place is open they are only allowed 50% of their normal occupancy, but no one is getting near that yet.

My bike shop has been hit hard by this, like the whole bicycle industry nationwide. Add that with the drastically increased demand and I just feel useless while I am there. We went from having a large-ish inventory to having nothing on hand. Our repair turn around time went from a normal summer level of 1-1.5 weeks to 4-5 weeks. Our showroom floor is empty of new bikes for sale. Instead is full of bikes waiting for repairs. Almost every customer looking to buy a bike somehow looks at the broken, dust covered, Walmart bikes waiting for repair and asks to buy them. I have to inform them that “no these are not for sale, all we have left is the REALLY high end bikes on display ($US10k).” “When will you be getting more bikes in?” “We don’t know. We have a wait-list about 200 people long waiting for bikes.” We don’t know what is coming in or when it will be here.

So now my life is spent during the days alone locked in my house; my nights sitting in a cafeteria, waiting for the one rude guy to stop in for a sandwich. I’ve drank more in these five months than I have in my entire life leading up to this. My wife feels like a stranger. So I’ve not had the best time with this.

I am in this horrible position where I’m not living like the “new normal” working from home seeing the only person I live with, but I’m also not unemployed. So no one wants to hear me complain about how shitty I’ve got it right now, because a lot of people have it worse.

If I could go back to March I would take the unemployment over this in a heartbeat. My entire live has been work and basing my personal value on the work I do, now I have “work” with no value and no way out that I can see.

Anonymous, airport screener, California

When this pandemic started the agency I work for didn’t really do much besides having us clean work areas every two hours. It was recommended but not required to wear a mask.

About two weeks into the pandemic our agency director came out with a stupid guideline/directive: anyone that was uncomfortable with working with the public could tell their manager and they would get two weeks paid time off, no questions asked (and they would not need to use sick/vacation time.) So of course certain co-workers — everyone working for the government or any one actually knows the type of co-worker — took advantage of the situation.

Within two days the number of “officers” during the shift I work went to less than half of what we normally would have. This directive was of course changed within a week to specifically say that to qualify for paid time off you had to have one of about ten medical conditions. But of course since no proof was needed, it was still taken advantage off.

The frustrating thing about this is that those employees that took off keep getting called by a manager and told to stay home another 14 days after the first 14 days are up. This went on from mid-March until mid-July. So those employees that took off were on a paid vacation for close to 4 months. What is emotionally draining about this situation is that some of those employees were posting photos to social media of them out in stores browsing, shopping, or at the beach with their small kids without masks on when the whole point of this stupid directive was because you were too scared to be near the public.

In mid-July they were told that this leave policy was ending. You could still stay home, but you would need to use your own sick leave, vacation time, or stay home without pay. Everyone of them came back to work. As far as I know at my work location none of those coming back ever got sick with the covid-19 virus. And what has been the most emotionally draining thing is that about three weeks ago I ended up getting sick and contracted covid-19. I was told by the managers that guidelines have changed and they can only pay me for 14 days — anything after that and I would need to use my own sick/vacation time or be on leave without pay.

Luckily I am doing better now, but still can’t show up to work yet, but if I don’t work I won’t be good financially. That is taking its toll emotionally.

If you would like to be included in a future edition of Sick Days, please use this Google form or send me an email with the subject line “My Covid Story.” Stay healthy and safe.