We were prepped ahead of time of our expectations via email as well as during our department Google Meet video chat.
I grabbed the black, non-latex gloves that had been laying on the garage door steps. How long they have been there I could not tell you . But now they are needed, if not necessary. I had been told I would need to wear both gloves and a mask, but they were low on masks. So, I pulled out one of the two masks that had been sitting in one of our junk closets. A mask my husband had used while sanding. Once I figured out exactly how to put it on and tighten it, I set off.
It felt strange to drive a route I hadn’t driven in over 21 school days. A route I had done plenty of times without much thought as if on auto pilot. But today I was nervous. And last night I was nervous. I actually pondered changing my scheduled time to come in to later in the week or maybe not at all, did I really need to go in and get anything? I did. I needed a book we were going to start reading as class weeks earlier. A novel we are now going attempt to read together now, but virtually. I also wanted to grab my candy, my Clorox wipes, and my hand sanitizer.
So I went. I had to go in through the office because our key cards were deactivated. My hands were covered in gloves and my mask was on. I was greeted by our administration and our head secretary who all put on masks as I entered. I had to sign a waiver acknowledging that I didn’t have a fever, or a cough, or diarrhea, been around anyone who is tested positive for COVID-19, and haven’t traveled out of the state or country within the last 14 days. Only then was I allowed to walk to my classroom to gather a few things.
The halls were empty and the motion sensor lights flipped on as I walked. The mask became unbearably hot and uncomfortable. I instantly felt a flood of gratitude for those who are essential and must wear these masks all day long for days on end. I couldn’t handle walking the distance from the front office to my classroom and had to take mine off when I was only halfway there. No one else in the building was walking around for the 45 minutes I was given to gather my materials, so I it seemed safe to do so.
I have not felt the need to wear gloves or a mask the few times I have left the house to get take out or to pick up an order at Target, so this discomfort was new to me. And to have to wear it to a place that used to be buzzing adolescent energy every day felt so surreal. So humbling. It also made me realize how freakin’ fortunate I am.
I am fortunate enough to have Shipt deliver my groceries so I don’t have to set foot into a big, crowded grocery store. I am fortunate enough to be able to tip well. I am fortunate enough to continue to support my favorite local pizza places each week. Again, I am fortunate enough to tip well. I am fortunate enough to be able to work in comfort at home. I am fortunate enough to be able to stay home, safe, and healthy.
I can’t imagine the anxiety those who have to worry about masks, gloves, and encountering possibly infected people each and every day. A thousand thank yous wouldn’t be enough.
The stress I felt while walking into an almost empty building masked and gloved up pales in comparison to those who have to do that daily on top of worrying about being coughed on and sneezed on and bringing the possibility of this virus into their homes all because of where they work.
Because I can think of no other way to thank those who put themselves at risk every day so people like me can stay safe and healthy, I will simply keep myself and my family at home.