Existing in the New Normal
Existing in the New Normal is the second blog in the series of entries I plan to write about how we are experiencing life during the reopening. Rooster and I seem to be treading water these days in a deep pool of mayhem filled with the reality of COVID-19.
Employment crisis during the New Normal
Here in Indiana, we Hoosiers have entered the dog days of summer. The thermometer reads over ninety, and humidity fills the air. The corn is up to our chin. It looks like the farmers are going to have a good year. Homegrown tomatoes are for sale at roadside stands, and lightning bugs fill the night air. They flash their taillights to attract a mate, unaware the world is full of so much turmoil. The 4th of July has come and gone. And so I’ve officially joined the ranks of the unemployed due to COVID-19.
Fortunately, I have an August return date unless our state goes on lockdown again. I’ve heard rumors the government is giving folks an extra six hundred dollars if they become unemployed during this time. I haven’t seen a penny yet. I’ve applied and been approved but haven’t submitted a claim. My employer held back a week, so I still got paid. Therefore, with my luck, I’ll make my first claim about the time the extra payment ends.
We want to retire
Rooster is back to work. However, Rooster’s not enjoying his new status of employment. The job he worked before COVID-19 isn’t the same as it was before we were forced to exist in the New Normal. Ironically, I find myself unemployed as everyone else is going back to work.
Consequently, we both determined we want to retire. We enjoyed the free time we had while we were sheltering in place. Also, being out of the workforce would protect us from COVID-19. The federal government raised the age concerning the time frame when a person could receive full Social Security. As a result, Rooster and I will remain in the workforce for two more years. With the virus still out there, we’ll have to learn how to exist in the new normal.
Construction while existing to the new normal
If you will remember, an army of guys wearing yellow shirts, invaded our neighborhood in week six of social distancing. These guys showed up in force with their heavy machinery and lots of noise. The objective assigned to them was to lay new gas lines in our area. They blocked off every street in a four-block radius, essentially trapping us in our house. It made going to the pharmacy or for groceries difficult. They dug holes in the road and the alleys. Plus, all the digging kicked up dust.
The observation about construction job hierarchy
Firstly, I’d like to know what sadist neglects to call off this sort of construction when people are sheltering in place inside their homes. I realize the utility has a schedule of when they want this project completed, but wouldn’t it be more considerate to their customers to delay all the noise, heavy machinery, and dust until the pandemic is near an end. I called to express my opinion, but of course, no one answered. They were all working from home, where there was no construction.
Secondly, I found it interesting to observe the hierarchy that existed in the workforce, even among construction workers. Three levels of status seemed to define these workers.
The first level was the supervisor. The boss was the guy who got to carry the umbrella in the rain and sit in the lawn chair watching the other guys work.
The second level was heavy machine operators. These people showed up when the holes needed to be dug or pipe laid.
The third level was the manual laborer. They were the ones who were always busy doing the heavy lifting. However, they were also the most expendable members of the crew because they were replaceable.
Five minutes of respect for workers in the New Normal
During the COVID-19 social distancing at home, there was a new respect for working people evolving in this country. It lasted for about five minutes. A social hierarchy has always existed in the workforce based on the type of labor a person performed, but during sheltering in place, even the pizza delivery guy became valuable.
A beautiful thing happened amid all the stay at home frenzy. The truck driver, the grocery store worker, the farmer, the janitor, and the emergency service personnel suddenly became important. They were called heroes and respected for the jobs they performed to keep everyone fed and safe and clean.
Existing in the new normal is making that respect vanish quicker than an ice cube on a sidewalk in July. I fear the workforce is evolving into three new categories. This invisible hierarchy has always existed in some form, but I fear it will become more apparent in the future.
Job hierarchy existing in the new normal
Firstly, there will be work at home people. These folks have company computers. They are the only ones with any level of job security because they run things. They make the rules, so there is a sense of importance about these people. The folks at the lower level are glad they are staying at home, having zoom meetings amongst themselves. It is easier to do your job without interference from the top of the hierarchy.
Secondly, the essential workers will exist for a short while until the work from home people can find a way to replace them with technology. Have you noticed the increase in self-service lines at the grocery stores? I also heard they are launching computer-driven semi-trucks. There won’t be a need for a long haul trucker when a robot is behind the wheel. Of course, there will be a drastic decline in customer service, but we’ll all adapt to this new normal when we get used to the change.
Thirdly, the essential worker will become nonessential. When the smoke clears from COVID-19, working-class people will find themselves in a bad place existing in the new normal. They might have been heroes yesterday, but in the future, they will struggle to make ends meet. The small businesses some of them worked so hard to open will close their doors. They can’t compete against the big chain stores. They will cease to exist in the new normal.
Shopping for eyeglasses while existing in the New Normal
Nobody said things would be easy in the New Normal, but they didn’t explain how difficult picking a new pair of eyeglass frames while wearing a mask would be. I put off my vision test so long the pandemic caught up with me, but I needed to go before my yearly trip to Indianapolis to The Midwest Eye Institute. There is an abnormality in the back of my right eye that looks like melanoma but is probably just a freckle—the doctor who deals with eye cancer checks to determine if any change took place over the year. I always go for my vision test before Rooster and I make the trip.
My local eye doctor opened up for business after closing for Covid-19. I promptly made an appointment. Hence, I knew I would have to wear a mask in the office, but I didn’t count on picking out new frames while wearing the mask. I tried on at least three sets of frames. They sanitize the sample frames after each customer, so trying on a lot of pairs was okay. However, I wasn’t certain how many of them would look once I took the mask off my face.
Settling for less in the New Normal
I’m as vain as any woman. We don’t want to walk around with a hideous pair of eyeglasses on our faces. Even the fact they are necessary is a slight to our egos. Rooster had to sit outside the store on a bench. My optometrist office is located in a shopping mall, so at least he was able to get close enough to give me his opinion. I settled with a dark pair. Everyone says they look nice, but I’m not sure they are telling me the truth. The eyeglasses look a little large to me. Settling is one more thing that comes along with existing in the New Normal.
Boycotting the news while existing in the New Normal
While Rooster and I pulled the bike out the other day, we witness the death of a Raccoon. We watched the poor thing stagger down the street before it plopped onto the ground. The animal’s eyes were glazed, and it didn’t move when Rooster turned over the motorcycle engine. This behavior is extremely odd because raccoons are nocturnal animals. You hardly ever see them walking around in daylight. Secondly, because raccoons are wild animals, they don’t like to be around people. They run and hide instead of lying on the ground watching human activity. There wasn’t a thing we could do for the poor creature except allow nature to take its course.
The experience of watching the animal die made us both uneasy and depressed. I realized it is the same feeling I get whenever I watch the news on television. I don’t care if it’s the COVID-19 updates or the evening news it all leaves me with a helpless, empty feeling.
How our decision to switch off the news started
For the first few weeks of the pandemic, Rooster and I were glued to the television. Most of America probably was. After the death of George Floyd, we sat back and watched peaceful protests turn violent. A feeling of despair washed over Rooster and me. Then, America started opening up again. Now the COVID cases are on the rise. None of the media seems to be able to get their facts straight. We’re even more confused than we were when we started. Rooster and I have discovered some things about the way the media exists in the new normal.
What Rooster and I have decided about the Media while existing in the New Normal
All media these days comes with a political slant. There is no way to get the straight facts from either the conservative or liberal broadcasts. This political slant makes it all questionable news.
Nobody, including the experts, know what we should do to stay safe from this virus.
It’s hard to know what to believe anymore. Even statistics can be slanted while existing in the new normal.
A person will be just as safe and much happier if they stop watching the news media. It’s simpler to live without all the negativity.
We all know to wash our hands, stay six feet apart, and wear a mask. That doesn’t help when you want to hug your grandchildren or have a family meal.
The news media is giving Rooster ulcers.
We can’t do anything about the state of the world, so why wallow in the retelling of the bad stuff? We are old people. Nobody wants our opinion.
We turned the television off and started living our lives while existing in the new normal.
People ask Rooster and I if we want to be informed. We have decided we want to live in ignorant bliss while existing in the New Normal. The world is in such bad shape right now, and we can’t do a thing about changing the situation. All we can do is make our little part of it better. I’ve filed for unemployment, the construction guys have moved on, I have a new pair of glasses on my face, and we stopped watching the news. Life in our neck of the woods is the same as it was before this pandemic started except for the death of one raccoon. And we have discovered we are much happier existing in the New Normal.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
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