I as of this post am an essential worker, I work for one of the largest retailer’s in America and as much as I think that neoliberalism is undermining America, I myself am being undermined as well by neoliberalism. The company I work for excels due to neoliberalism and in part has helped me sustain my livelihood at the bare minimum. Meaning the company I work for expects me to be more dedicated to them than they are to me or my community, but I am conditioned to think otherwise by said company. It is my opinion that we all are conditioned to think otherwise. I leave that for another post.
“For those whom much is given, much is required.” The company I work for as many companies do would have you believe that they are giving everything to their employees or even their customers but that isn’t true. And the one thing that they undermine and take away is in my opinion one of the most important resources a human being can have, integrity. I am undermining my own integrity, by working for this company. How, I am convinced that if my big box retail store collectively found a way to minimize waste, they would be able to provide comprehensive health care for every one of their employees, and said employees would be incentivized to minimize waste for better health care. I am against waste especially of those things that can be recycled, reused, or regrown. Everyday I watch as my company throws away something that so many in my community could use. Even things that I could use, grow, and help others with. In short the place where I work is more invested in the perception of how we we look, more so than they are invested in sustainability. This of course is an age old dilemma of capitalism. There are times I myself throw things away at work knowing that these things can be used and as I throw these things away I toss my integrity along with it.
I find it hard to be “essential”, if I have no integrity. Hard to be “essential” if I can’t spend quality time with my family. Hard to be “essential” if my co-pays are more than my paychecks. Still there is another side to my integrity, as much as I think about theses things or even feel these things, I still work my ass off.
As an “essential worker,” I work hard and I am willing to confront anyone who says otherwise. As a matter of fact I have a co-worker who thinks that I and other co-workers do nothing, so by the time he walks in he has to save us. We all have one of those people. This coworker that takes credit for the things the morning crew has done or does, this coworker has a “note” where he gets a pass on lifting anything over 50 lbs., so he delegates and rides on machinery claiming he does the most, still he is not a supervisor nor a manager. And he has, as of this post continually claimed that I and the morning crew do nothing and I have confronted him for saying something so fundamentally untrue, and if he reads this post he will probably expose me and tell you and others where I work and that I should not be writing this post. I wanted to kick his ass for saying that I do nothing and I will want to kick his ass if and when he does expose me for writing this post. But not for writing this post but for still saying that we, the morning crew don’t work hard. That’s how serious I take my work ethic. Again that’s another conversation, in another blog post. My bad I apologize.
I’m not quite sure where I got my work ethic from, probably from my maternal Grandmother, who I lived with for a time in most of my formative years. My maternal Grandmother unlike my artistic mother or father would wake up every morning on time get ready for work, and race to the bus stop to catch public transportation. She did this consistently in my younger days. She took care of me when my “creative” parents who split when I was months old, could not. I was grateful to her for taking care of me and that is how I learned to do so for my own family. My work ethic is also rooted in something deeper and greater. The desire to prove others wrong, I grew up around a time where they called Black people lazy and shiftless and I saw it as my duty to break and kill that stereotype. The stereotype may still exist as well as my fight against it. The co-worker above has had a run in with every Black co-worker in the department, there are only three of us left.
A year ago and before Covid-19, I never heard the term “essential worker” but I had heard, of neoliberalism, exploitation, expendable, & wage slave. Am I expendable, absolutely. Am I exploited, absolutely exploited. Am I being fucked by the neoliberalism with no vaseline, absolutely. Am I a wage slave, absolutely. What’s worse is that I know it, yet still I do it. I work at my job for a number of factors. And now I am being called “essential.” So even now a year plus into Covid-19 when I think of the term “essential worker” I think of doctors, nurses, the police, fire-fighters, teachers, farmers, grocery workers, even fruit pickers, I thought of them as more “essential” than my position. I’m reluctant to tell you which company I work for, look at me being grandiose, not because I fear retaliation, I should be so lucky to have my blog read by that many people to make an income from it. However I didn’t think my job or even my company were essential, however my company remained open and I was proven wrong my company is essential. So much so to the point that when most other businesses were closed that in my estimation during the lock down people just came to my company just “to get out of the house.” In the beginning of the pandemic instead of going to the park families came to “my work place”. They brought mom, dad, daughter, son, newborn and grand-ma. They came in wheel chairs and with oxygen tanks just to browse. This freaked me the fuck out, and I must add little has changed. My company is essential, yet I am not.
Mind you last year the knowledge of Covid-19 was minimal and I have some what of an imagination, so as I just wrote, “that I was freaked the fuck out”. In the beginning I didn’t think my job was taking enough precautions nor did I believe our customers were. Again we were early into the throws of the pandemic but there was a curfew, our store, was limiting the number of customers and people were required to wear masks. So in the beginning of the pandemic my stress level was high, and when my stress level is high I tend to forget things. I had left my cell phone in the car, but i was so busy that morning at work that it took me and hour and a half to go to my car and retrieve my cell phone. I wake up at 4AM five days out of seven to go to work and I have to be at work by 5AM, my job is ten minutes away by car and 30min away by bicycle. Yes I did ride my bike to work at 430AM to get there by 5AM. I have a seven minute grace period which means I often clock in a 5:07 because if anything goes off schedule in the morning, I’m going to be late. That morning I couldn’t turn around to go back and get my phone or I would have clocked in late. At that time in the morning you could imagine there was more than enough parking, so on the day I walked out at 6:30 to retrieve my phone and to see the parking lot fuller than I would have expected it to be kind of threw me off. But to also see a food-truck in the middle of my employers parking lot and to see people in line at said food truck was fundamentally absurd, because again, we were in the middle of a pandemic. I learned something in that moment, people don’t really care about “essential workers” we are just a means to an end. The goods are or may be essential the customer really doesn’t care who gives them their drywall screws during a pandemic the just want their drywall screws.
The department I work in includes the “cleaning isle”, and during a pandemic the crowds in this isle were off the charts. This isle included the Lysol, the bleaches, the toilet paper, paper towels etc. So me as an opener again freaked out as I saw the majority of the people let in to the store make a b-line for the cleaning isle. I won’t go into my dislike of the Lysol hoarders or the Clorox wipe pirates, right now. Let’s talk about what freaked me out the most, it was the non existent social distancing. It was me not wanting to be in the isle but knowing I had to in order to down stock as much as I could and as quickly as I could, because people were buying as much as they could. I wouldn’t call myself claustrophobic but I don’t like being in crowds of want, ignorance, or desperation. Like I hate going anywhere where I can sense want and desperation, like I hate going to the mall on Saturdays or strip clubs for that matter. So for a person like me the want and desperation at my place of work was palpable. So when the isle got too crowded I would step out. This is before my job gave us “6ft badges” to keep people at a distance. Even now when I wear it people still walk up to me with their cell phones stepping in my personal space showing me the picture on the cell phones, wanting me to hold their cell phones as they ask, “do you have this.” Even if we were not in the middle of a pandemic I’m not going to hold your cell phone, do you know what kind of filth is on a cell phone.
So I would stand outside of the cleaning isle try to do what I could just on the perimeter and wait for the “anxious” to finish shopping. On cue a Grandmother would walk up to me asking for Lysol or Clorox wipes. And I would have to go find my hidden stash that I saved for the Grandmothers and nurses. Hidden from the pirates and the hoarders. In my head seeing a grandma I would ask myself ‘grandma why are you out and about, you are one of the people most susceptible to this disease.’ The isle still wasn’t clear but the grandmother and I walked toward my stash, how did I know she was a grandmother? She was talking on the phone loudly to a friend and said, “Im at the (blank) with my grand babies.” I reached for a case I had hidden, and pulled out three cans and handed them to her, “she said no baby I’ll take the case.” I’m not sure if she was a hoarder or a pirate. The company I worked for had not set limits so I gave her the case. I walked out of the isle immediately so no one would have seen me just give grandma a case. Luckily I walked right back in because the isle had cleared and I decided to down stock more product. As I was doing so I detected a smell, usually the aroma on the cleaning isle are those of cleaning products, detergents, fabric softeners, all purpose cleaners. So when some one is in the isle with a warm quesidlla from the food truck outside enters the isle you smell it, even if you’re wearing a mask. Wait a second, remember me leaving my phone in the car, and me thinking, ‘why in the fuck is there a food truck outside my place of employment, why are there people in line at said food truck’. Now inside I’m thinking ‘why is this guy in my isle, with his food truck food eating his food bare handed, licking his fingers, touching the cleaning products on my isle and putting them back.’ Obviously he was not wearing a mask and, ‘did he just fucking sneeze.’ We’re in the middle of a PANDEMIC.
Again that was in the beginning of the pandemic, and as me being an “essential worker”, I knew we as Americans were fucked. It didn’t help that I had bought “Epidemics and Society” and was reading it the night before the incident, it didn’t help that in the back of my mind I knew that if I caught Covid and died not one customer who walks through our doors would know or give a fuck. But yet I’m “essential.” I am truly not “essential” if I do not have full health care, if I only make minimum wage, if I am just a means to an end for people who are too busy to read the signs or look at the symbols that tell you what fucking isle you’re in. If I can’t organize, worship, or go to a town hall meeting to be a good citizen. For the simple reason that there is not enough time in the day to do all of that I can for love, family, and self. If you work eight hours a day and are supposed to sleep eight hours a day honestly believe you can cram quality family time into eight hours, what if you commute, or God forbid have to be at work at 4am which means you should probably go to sleep at 8pm. Only to do it the next day so some non wearing mask person can yell at me for not having Lysol. Maybe if only I worked harder. I work hard as fuck, most “essential” workers do. So if you decided not to wear a mask, before we figure this whole Covid thing out. Don’t get upset if I stand six feet, away, if I won’t touch your phone, if we don’t have Lysol. I’m just some expendable, exploited, wage slave, that you essentially don’t give a fuck about. And I glad I’m wearing a mask so you won’t tell me to smile. Support the $15 minimum wage and advance better health care, so the “essential” can feel like that. America requires so much of essential workers but gives them so little.