It was the middle of October when Emily called, a young, besotted woman intent on venturing outside the country.
“I need an expedited coronavirus result,” she said. “My boyfriend is waiting for me in Peru. He is a really great guy and I haven’t seen him in such a long time.”
My immediate thought: That’s not fair.
Epidemiologists and other health experts had issued warnings against extensive and unnecessary travel for fear of spreading the coronavirus. I’ve heeded the advice of the experts, constricted my travel to encompass driving to my job, exercising at the neighborhood park, and shopping at the supermarket. I’m following the rules.
The airlines remain open to accept passengers, albeit at less capacity than normal. The travel industry and their employees need money to survive, and I understand that exigent circumstances contribute to a need for some people to travel beyond safe distances. A close relative may have passed away in another state, a stranded foreigner might be barred from returning home if not in possession of a negative coronavirus test result, or a fledgling business owner might have to close a deal in person.
Sweet sounding Emily’s request for an accelerated Covid-19 made my eyes roll, before prompting a heavy sigh. A pandemic is raging throughout the country, people everywhere are dropping like flies from virus overload, and most of the rest of us are having to drastically curtail our lives in order to protect ourselves. But Emily is preparing to fly to Peru to be with her boyfriend. Why does Emily get to travel to Peru? What makes her so special? I’m sure Emily has access to Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, and other various software applications. I’m having to use Zoom and Skype to maintain relationships with friends and family. Can’t Emily make due with Zoom and Skype?
“I’m sorry. Excuse me sir,” said Emily, irritation lacing her voice. “I really need to get my hands on a result. It is very important.”
Emily had been able to sense my frustration and exasperation. Her ire was steadily rising like mercury does in a thermometer, the last thing a client services representative wants to encounter.
“I do know that Emily,” I said.
“The turnaround time for our coronavirus test can take anywhere from twenty-four to forty-eight hours. We’re at around thirty-six hours right now.” I propped my chin in the palm of my right hand. “The laboratory is pretty good about getting results out before the forty-eight hour period. But if you want, I can get in touch with the laboratory performing the test and see where your sample is in the process.”
Silence fell. Hope swelled within me as I waited for Emily’s response to my proposition. Perhaps she would realize that her request for a status update on her sample was insignificant in the larger scheme of things.
“You’re welcome.” It’s not fair.
There was still hope that we could mitigate the effects of coronavirus, as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, epicenters of coronavirus infections in the late winter and early spring months, had greatly depressed their number of new cases. In my home state of Colorado, the accrual of new coronavirus cases fell somewhere in between two hundred and six hundred cases per day, deaths from coronavirus were negligible, and we were successfully managing a staged reopening of the state. In fact, there was an article posted in the Politico publication titled, What Colorado is getting right about reopening, that extoled my home state’s success.
Formerly furloughed work compatriots were returning to respond to client inquiries on previously idle telephones, grateful for jobs that could endure through any type of economic downturn. I was appreciative of their return to the workplace too, especially since their arrival alleviated pressure. The most nettlesome coronavirus related calls came at the tail end of the summer workday. It was 4:57 pm on a Friday evening, three minutes before quitting time, when I received a call from gravelly voiced senior citizen.
“My husband and I need these results so that we can go to Bora Bora,” said the woman. “It’s our retirement trip. Can you just check and see if the results will be ready soon?”
My jealously warps my view of the woman, who is another braggart announcing her plans to travel outside of the country. And she was older, and speaking through a voice box scarred by excessive smoking, the exact type of person who should be trying to limit her exposure to a deadly respiratory disease. She should be the one adhering strictly to public health guidelines.
As I prepared a response to the woman’s inquiry I took the phone away from my ear. I needed a moment because her voice was grating to my ears. Why do these people keep telling me about their plans to travel during a pandemic? Do they think that it will make me more sympathetic to their situation? Because what I wish for most in these instances is to be able to tell these people to fuck off.
I sighed, and pressed the phone against my ear. “Hold on a minute mam,” I said. “I’ll see what I can do.”
It’s not fair.
Students flooded onto college campuses in the early fall. Colleges across the state of Colorado needed access to well established coronavirus testing infrastructures to ensure the health and safety of their students and faculty. Officials at the University of Denver, an exorbitantly expensive private college situated on the west side of town, entered into agreement with my hospital to test their students and professors.
One of my responsibilities as a client services representative is to inform clients of positive coronavirus results. As the days passed by, bringing us deeper into the fall months, I became distressed at how often I was having to inform the University of Denver’s coronavirus response team of positive students. Some of the more anxious students have bypassed the response team to push for an answer from me. My response for these privileged youngsters: “You’re going to have to talk directly to your Covid-19 response team.”
Many of the students ask for expedited test results. And some have expressed their reasons for their pushy behavior. Once again, I don’t understand why people keep insisting on telling me their reasons for wanting a quick result, because I’m not going to be any more sympathetic. One young man told me that he needed results expedited so that he could go out to party with friends on Saturday evening. I wanted to reach through the phone, grab the young man by the ear, and scream at him: “You’re asking for a clean bill of health that you go out and party with friends?! Is that it? We’re at war against coronavirus you fucking douchebag. Stop calling me about your vacuous and moronic priorities.” But I can’t berate the boy because I’m a professional, so I politely told him that his test is pending and to wait until he gets word from the response team. The boy snorted and said, “Fine. Whatever, dude. I should have known that you weren’t going to help me.”
Yeah, whatever. I am totally bereft of empathy for this young man. And I remain devoid of sympathy for all of these other people who want to exult in privilege during hard times. Four hundred thousand Americans have died from coronavirus, with more to come, and some folks can’t seem to spare a thought for the people who might be suffering through this pandemic. They’d rather live their lives as if nothing is happening, and then brag about their indifference. I’d be pulling out my hair right now if I had any.
I wish I could live my life as if nothing is happening.
God, I am tired of being jealous.