April 10, 2020

The Visible Invisibles

For most of us, our collective experience is changing what we see and how we react. We are more aware of the fragile nature of what empty shelves look like. We read things in the news that are upsetting. Our ability to order something and have in on our doorstep in 24 hours has been disrupted.  We probably see people walking in our neighborhood we have never noticed before, not because they don't live here but because we have simply never paid much attention. 

Importantly, coronavirus is making some of the invisibles in our day-to-day life visible. These are the people that still have a job, but at what risk to themselves and family? Are they being asked to work unusual hours in difficult conditions? Are they working because their employer has given them no choice or they simply cannot make it without a paycheck? Do they have proper protective gear? Are they permitted to stay home if feeling unwell, or to help a family member? 

These are the usually invisible people who are now both visible and important to the continuing function of our society. 

Examples?
* The men and women who restock the grocery shelves. 

* The truck drivers who bring what the workers put on the shelves.

* The clerk at the gas station or drug store.

* The doctors, nurses and hospital workers who risk everything every day.

* The workers who empty the trash can right on schedule every week.

* The postal worker who brings the mail regardless of the risks.


* The factory workers who box up whatever we have ordered on line.

* The delivery drivers who bring those orders to our door.


In normal times, we simply don't pay much attention to these people. They are there all the time doing what they do even if we don't notice. We aren't being dismissive; we are simply assuming certain things will happen like they  always have.

Well, if nothing else, our eyes are open. The people who keep our well ordered life even partially well ordered are very much on our mind. They are very visible, not just in a physical sense, but in our consciousness. 

And, in doing so, they are taking risks that many of us don't, or wouldn't. In many cases they are taking those chances because they have to. Just because they must do what they do to survive doesn't make the risks any less real. Many feel the need to serve. They are the living embodiment of the Good Samaritan. 

Will these folks fade back into our mental background when this is all over? Will we forget the sacrifices? I sincerely hope not. If nothing else the virus has proven how we are all interconnected and depend upon one another.

If I could ask a favor of you. Pick one or two (or more) of the newly visible invisibles from the list above and do something to let them know you notice and appreciate them.

They have earned it and will be very grateful.

36 comments:

  1. I would like to add the staff at the fabric shops to the list of those deserving recognition. They are on the front lines getting supplies to the many sewing for the hospitals and community. Elastic is the new toilet paper, they can't keep it in stock but work tirelessly to fill the need. Thank you all for your hard work.

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    1. Excellent...something I would not have thought of. As a side note, I am amazed at the number of inventive ways to make a mask out of household materials.

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    2. Finally made two this morning from bandannas and elastic hairbands. Dr. Gupta had a video showing how on CNN. They took about 30 seconds to make, and work great!

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  2. I couldn't get by right now without home pick up from the post office. I'm downsizing my life on e-Bay and have 10-15 packages every week for my postal person to pick up. Before the pandemic I'd take them into the post office because I enjoyed the contact with the workers there. I also get my medications in the mail so I appreciate that as well. Unsong heroes.

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    1. A story in the paper about the post office's financial problems was a little scary, especially for those who receive meds through the mail. Due to the drop in volume, the postal service is likely to run out of money sometime this summer. It will not have enough to continue operating with universal service and 6 day a week delivery. Partisan dickering is preventing a solution at the moment.

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  3. And our migrant farm workers, some of whom are likely illegal. Thank you, thank you, thank you for allowing us to continue to purchase, prepare, and eat fresh produce!

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    1. And the people who butcher and prepare our meats. They, too, are often undocumented. They often live in small communities. Hard to find, but so important to help---even more now.

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    2. Both good examples. Those who want to have a totally secure border would quickly discover their produce or meat unavailable. Americans won't perform these jobs, at least not in the numbers required. Farmers would stop growing things that can't be harvested. Toilet paper shortages would be the least of our problems.

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    3. Or we could FIX the problem with proper visas. We did it in the 1950s. Then the undocumented would be paid fairly by all those who employ them. I really think that the largest problem is that the US elite love to have servants and poor to serve their needs.... but that is a story for another day.

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  4. Yep. I have a son who is a restaurant manager (who has taken PTO for at least two weeks finally as a vunerable person). It's all very nice to say take out is safer and all that, but it is impossible to self distance in a restaurant kitchen, so who exactly is it safer for when you order carryout once a week. I also have a family member who work part time in the grocery industry.

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    1. Those who continue to work in restaurants and fast food places are in a catch 22 situation. Their employer isn't likely to give them much leeway in terms of working, the income is vital, but the risk are very real.

      Grocery store stockers and clerks are silent heroes. Without them keeping those doors open, most of us would be in serious trouble by now.

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  5. I want to give a shout out to all the Paramedics (like my brother) who are risking their lives repeatedly every day as they go into homes with sick people and transport them to hospital. They are true heroes and so are their families. They are also paid very low wadges. Perhaps we can fix that once this is over.

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    1. Absolutely a big thank you to paramedics and EMT crews.

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  6. I was going to add the people - documented and undocumented - who work in the fields, but Tamara beat me to it, so how about those who work for the utilities who keep our energy and water flowing.

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    1. Can you imagine how much worse all this would be if we didn't have dependable water and electric service? Nice addition, Janis.

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    2. Our son is a lineman for a large phone company, and is considered an essential worker. Luckily, he works outdoors and in a small, regular crew with only three other guys. I found this interesting: The company even has them practicing physical distancing with their trucks. The guys and gals who drive the smaller trucks are taking them home each day; the larger trucks, like the auger truck and trailer of telephone poles that Ryan drives, are assigned spaced out parking spots in the company lot. It's intriguing (and reassuring) to learn of the many precautions that are in place behind the scenes.

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  7. I know a hairdresser is not an "essential" service although a lot of us definitely feel that they are! My monthly appointment would have been this week. I just sent a check for that service to my hairdresser. I know she is not working and I value her and what she does for me and her other clients. Stay safe everyone!

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    1. My husband snd I both worry about the ones who care for our hair. How are they coping without wages and tips. My young one has three children, his has two. We hope to see them in the near future---to at least help them as much as they have helped us.

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    2. After another month or two of this we will all fall down at the feet of the people who cut hair. My wife reminded me we have an electric trimmer for the dog; it likely works on humans, too. Oh my.

      An extra large tip the next time we visit a barber or hair salon would be very much in order.

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    3. Our daughter, a barber, would appreciate your warm and thoughtful words of support!

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    4. I dropped by my barbershop and gave my barber an envelop with payment for "a couple of haircuts in advance." I fear so much how these people will survive. She said she is six months away from her ability to apply for social security. I wished her the best and told her that I would return when this was all over, and that I will be the old guy that looks like a hippy from the 1960's, with hair down to his shoulders.

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  8. I have determined that when things are looser as far as ooutings any disposable income will be spent as locally as possible, my manicurist, hair people, independent book store, independent yarn and fabric stores, farmers markets, non chain restauraants and dog care folks will be the ones who get extra money. In fact I encourage those who are getting stimulus but don't have a need to consider spending it in that area......

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    1. A good list of those who are likely to have quite a struggle with a shut down economy. I like the idea of getting money back into the hands of local business people as soon as we are able.

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  9. There was a time when I had the same postal carrier deliver my mail... sometimes for years. No longer. I now seem to have 5 or 6 that rotate. I decided to tape a note on my mailbox: "To USPS: Thank you for all you do for us. Stay safe!" One of them knocked on the door to thank me yesterday. She said many of them are terrified, but are working anyway. Good and brave people everywhere.

    Rick in Oregon

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    1. We have community mailboxes..the mail for 30 or 40 houses delivered in one place. So, I never see my carrier or interact with him or her. But, yes, they continue to do their job every day. I wipe down the few pieces of mail I get before opening them, but handling hundreds or thousands of pieces a day must be quite scary.

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  10. Following up on Mona's comment . . . Although Alan and I are both introverts, we've always made it a point to exchange pleasantries with retail and grocery store clerks, bank tellers, etc. on a regular basis. I know that spending those few extra seconds used to annoy our kids, but I've seen our 21 year old daughter do the same thing when we've been out together. (I don't go out on errands much with our son so I don't know about him, but hope springs eternal.) Looking a cashier in the eye while saying thank you, complimenting an employee at a department store on a beautiful jacket, and assuring the staff at a local park that we appreciate all they do to allow us to have an enjoyable experience all go a long way toward making their day and ours a little better and brighter. The emerging theme in this pandemic seems to be, "We're all in this together," but, really, we always were.

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    1. The idea of "random kindness" takes on new importance in times like these. Like you and Alan, I try to always interact with a clerk or store employee in a way that validates them as valuable and noticed (not invisible). It is so simple and quick but can mean so much.

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  11. I feel so bad when I see the folks who I know are making minimum wages and aren't in any protective gear just doing their jobs during a time when it could be life threatening to them and their Loved Ones! All have been so Kind when I've had to venture out, now so rarely since the Trio under our roof are all High Risk... yet it also makes me feel rather cowardly in so many ways, since I CAN have the Privilege of total Lock Down, being Retired and having Pensions. I miss Social interaction, if only with Strangers. I have heightened anxiety about keeping The Man and the Grandchild I'm raising Safe and Virus Free, since I'm their Full Time Caregiver I also worry about getting it myself since I don't have a replacement Caregiver for them. I don't know if or when things might have any semblance of Normalcy, what will Recover and what won't be sustainable economically... and who will be left standing if this hangs around long enough we all will eventually have to find out if we can Survive catching it? Be Well and Stay Safe!

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    1. Thank you for your good thoughts and sharing your concerns. I think all of us are wondering if this experience will change us and our culture's way of life. A lot of us hope it gives us new appreciation for our fellow man and an urge to share and protect each other.

      BTW, I love the eclectic photos on your web page. That assault of colors is needed right now.

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  12. You are so very right. I'm a retired RN (July 2019). I have made and delivered 138 masks to those requesting them for their safety. I'm doing the store runs for 3 seniors so they can safely at home.

    We should all do what we can for others, while keeping ourselves safe.

    I've also let the woman who cuts my hair know that I will send her $ when needed. She refused my double payment a month ago before this started in my state but I knew it was coming because how could it not?

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    1. How could we not know this was coming? By being in serious denial, being not particularly interested, and being completely out of one's depth.

      We have paid our house cleaner the full amount for the last two times she was scheduled to be here. We asked her to stay home and stay safe.

      "We should all do what we can for others, while keeping ourselves safe." Amen.

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  13. Great list, Bob. To it, I’ll add some of the people in my life: an environmental health officer trying to work from home while also caring for her two children who are cooped up there not in school/daycare; a director of transit and emergency services who is carrying a crushing workload at this time, an underpaid gig-economy artist who is sharing her work online for free; my yoga instructor who teaches her session via zoom in her basement while her kids are temporarily unsupervised upstairs; workers at the garden supply and feed store; a university instructor who has suddenly had to learn to teach all her courses online mid semester using an overtaxed computer system; a realtor who is having to find ways to show houses safely.

    Jude

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    1. Excellent additions. I have read that a good many day care centers will not be able to reopen after things have returned to mostly normal. I wonder what that means for the woman (or man) who has to change careers, give up work, or find something that can be done at home; the children will have to be cared for.

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