May 31, 2021

COVID Diaries : From two incomes to zero in only two hours

I have another heartfelt perspective to share of how COVID-19 lockdown has affected people. This guest post is written by a woman named Anna who lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two children. Both she and her husband have demanding customer service jobs: Anna is a hair stylist and her husband is a server at a busy restaurant.

During the lockdown last summer, I kept thinking about how lucky Jerry and I were not to have lost our income. There were so many people getting furloughed (including people that Jerry worked with), it was scary at first. While we were lucky, I know that many people were not--especially people who work such jobs as hair stylists and restaurant servers. Every time I drove past a closed restaurant, I would think about the the people who worked there and how scary it must have been to have lost their jobs indefinitely without even a moment's notice.

This is wonderfully written, and I'm grateful that Anna is sharing her experience. Here it is, in her words...

I can’t remember when I first heard people talking about coronavirus, but I remember the last day I cut and colored hair at my salon before the national shutdown. My coworkers and I talked in the break room about changing our cleaning procedures. We wiped down every single surface in the place. Once our clients started coming in, the worried conversations started. No one knew what was going to happen. We got through our day and went home to our families.

I walked back to the home my husband and I had bought just four months prior. We had been living in Philadelphia together for nine years and were so grateful we’d been able to purchase a home in which to raise our two young sons. The two of us probably discussed our concerns and just went about our weekend.

My husband was scheduled to work the dinner shift on Monday evening. He had been waiting tables at a busy restaurant in Center City for over ten years. Sometime in the late morning, he got a call that the restaurant would be closed until further notice. The salon owners called me with the same news soon after. In the space of two hours, we went from both being employed to having no source of income whatsoever.

We went to a nearby park with our kids. They ran around, being silly and chasing each other with sticks. We watched them, wondering what our future would hold.

Thankfully, the federal government quickly offered aid to those whose industries were affected by COVID-19. I spent time each day searching for any form of assistance that was available. It was emotionally tough to take money from the government, knowing that some people were in much greater financial straits than we were. However, I think most readers of this blog can relate to the feeling of wanting to hold onto whatever savings you have in case things get even worse.

As the shutdown continued, I tried to find ways to occupy my mind. I tried guided meditation and creative visualization. Like many others, I baked bread and cooked some elaborate meals. I finally picked up reading novels again after a long dry spell. My kids watched screens much more than they ever had before. Our plans to send my older son to kindergarten were put on hold for a year.

I realize others might envy our position of not having to work from home while managing virtual school with our children. But the most important thing I learned during this time is that we all sacrificed something. We all suffered in one way or another. Talking about our struggles doesn’t minimize others’ difficulties. It unites us and allows us to support each other.

Did anyone else reading this watch the news each night with a sense of sadness and doom? That’s what we did for a while. We couldn’t believe the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths in Philadelphia. All of the stress of the shutdown started a wave of shooting deaths in the city. The mounting cases of police brutality across the nation sparked protesters to gather all over Philadelphia. Seeing the businesses in Center City (just two miles from our house) looted and destroyed live on CNN was probably the most surreal thing I’ve experienced. I love Philadelphia and want more integration and equality for our city.

Our salon reopened at the end of June. My furlough of nearly four months was the longest break I’ve had from work since I was 16. I didn’t miss doing hair as much as I missed talking with my clients and sharing their triumphs and losses. When we got word that salons would be able to open, I was both happy and concerned.

My coworkers and I went back to work with fearful hearts. We diligently disinfected, sanitized, socially distanced, and spaced out our appointments to keep everyone safe. It felt like working on an alien planet. I took longer to complete services and it was tiring doing all of the extra cleaning. All of the anecdotal evidence pointed to salons being safe, but it didn’t feel good to put myself and my clients at risk in order to pay my bills.

Restaurants reopened later that summer and my husband’s work environment was pretty stressful. The guidelines changed almost weekly, with everyone scrambling to keep up. The restaurant’s staff was decimated, first when many servers didn’t feel safe coming back, next when many employees were let go to keep costs down. My husband worked in a mask and face shield, waiting on some understanding guests and some people who were less than pleasant. 

Business all over the city closed for good. Restaurants tried to pivot to take out and delivery only. Salon traffic was down because many clients were not comfortable getting their hair done. We tried to work hard and be grateful for everything we have.

The real turning point came when we were able to be vaccinated. FEMA set up a mass vaccination site here and we both met the guidelines to go in March. It took a huge weight off of me to know that my husband would be protected while serving unmasked guests and that I wouldn’t infect any of my clients.

The restrictions are now lifting and numbers are going down here. Everyone can’t wait to get back to normal, but this has changed us all. While my experience was hard, others have lost so much more than I ever will. 

The other lesson I learned is that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. That’s what we talked about that day at the park. Today might be your last, so make the most of it. Planning for the future is important, but being present in the moment is essential. I try to extend more kindness to everyone, including myself.

Thank you so much, Anna, for sharing! I'm so glad that everything has been working out for you--you've seemed to have maintained a great balance between keeping a positive attitude, but also being realistic and acting with caution. I'm so glad you and your husband were able to get vaccinated--my family is now vaccinated and the peace of mind alone is amazing.

Your boys are adorable, by the way! I miss when mine were that age.

If any of you have a unique experience in which COVID-19 has made a very big impact on your job and/or way of life and are interested in possibly sharing, please send me an email! Katie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Anna for sharing and Katie for opening your platform to these stories. It's been such a tough ride for so many. My heart goes out to you all.


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