Canary in a Coal Mine

The essential worker.

Someone who provides essential and life-saving services and items to the public at large during times of social and national crisis. Doctors, nurses, police, firemen, grocery and retail workers, manufacturing that provides medical and life-saving equipment, and who else am I missing? These are the folks continuing to do their jobs at their own peril. They’re providing services while others are sitting at home for however long this will go on; safe and sound eating in their three-day old sweatpants, playing video games, binging on television shows, and posting funny Tik Tok videos during their quarantine. While some truly understand the seriousness of the situation and appreciate the sacrifice these people are making, there are others I feel the sacrifice is lost on them.

The essential worker is the canary in the coal mine. Much like the little yellow bird that miners would take down into the mine shafts in the early days of coal mining, the essential worker is the barometer for when things have gotten beyond the point of no return. If the canary would drop dead in their cage, the miners would know that there was too much methane or carbon monoxide in the air and they would get out. We continue to send folks to Walmart and big chain groceries to stock the shelves, bag our groceries, and bake our donuts so we can have our lattes and frozen pizzas and pretend that things are still okay. But what do we do when these people that we’re relying on for our daily lives to continue moving forward start to get sick? I’m not seeing any of them wearing masks, and some not even wearing gloves. The grocery/retail store worker is on the front line, as much as cops, firemen, factory workers, and docs. Maybe even more so than our civil service workers.

As much as I try to keep hopeful there’s still the part of me that has to rain on that parade. It’s the “me” that I’ve worked on to control for years now. That part of myself that is the ultimate party pooper. The one that not only knows the obvious, but has to shout it in your ear when you’re trying to remain calm and be one of those bright side, half glass full fools(see, there he was.)

The worried, anxiety-ridden part of me is making his way back to the surface more these days. I look around and I see people wearing masks and gloves while buying loaves of bread and frozen pizzas and I think to myself “This is not normal. This is not good.” I’m not seeing a clear road back to “normal”. How does that happen? When does this Coronavirus peter out? June? July? By Christmas? I’m just not seeing a light at the end of this tunnel right now. I should be looking to China, Italy, and South Korea and feeling some hope. They’ve all made it out and to the other side. But not without many lives lost and economies crushed.

I feel like that American brashness and “go get ’em” attitude has been our greatest enemy here in the States. When it came to building a transportation system in this country, infrastructure, the Industrial Revolution, and advancing technology those attributes were our greatest strength. But now national pride and a general stubbornness is not advancing us, but will surely wipe us out. There are pockets of solitary strength and intelligence, but I don’t think it will be enough to keep this pandemic from seriously knocking our feet out from under us.

I could turn this into some kind of political rant, and with good, plausible reasoning. But I don’t want to. More than anything this goes beyond politics. This is a plea to my fellow USAers to be smart and do what you have to do. Stay home if you can(if your job allows it.) Appreciate those that don’t have the luxury of being able to self-isolate and instead are still helping you get your groceries, get gas in your car, parts built to make ventilators and face masks, and get your medicines to you at the pharmacy. If you can stay home, make the most of it. Play those video games, binge those shows, read those books, play those records, and bake. Don’t complain about being bored. That’s annoying. You’re safe, so be happy.

I think that party pooper guy is gone for now. And outside my windows the birds are still singing. For now.

4 thoughts on “Canary in a Coal Mine

    1. For the most part I agree. But I do have my days of feeling pretty overwhelmed. Last two days were heavy.

      You also have a govt that’s taking this seriously. It’s a top little too late scenario here.


      1. Unfortunately I understand. I’ve been following all the government guidelines. My hands are already dried out. As time wears on I think it’ll get harder. I try to find things to look forward to (like coffee). I’m starting to accept our situation. I’ve experienced all five stages of grief including anger a couple times.

        Liked by 1 person

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