I asked for submissions this week from people about how life feels suddenly different in these strange days.
Some responded that life seems about the same, that they’re carrying on as usual. But others see real differences.
Lindsey Bowers, a mail carrier in Danielsville, wrote about her job during a pandemic.
“Before the quarantine, our customers were happy to see us coming,” she wrote. “Kids loved to go check the mailbox, and sometimes they even left us notes and drawings in their mailboxes. People probably don't know it, but we cherish those things and share them with the other employees at the post office.”
She said she misses how some would come out to greet mail carriers, but she sees the fear of a disease that’s spreading.
“People are no longer so eager to take their packages from our hands for fear of any germs we might bring,” she wrote. “Instead, they tell us, from a distance, to place them on the porch. We watch in the rearview as they sneak out with the Lysol and sanitize them as we pull away. Of course we understand this, but it's hard knowing we've become a scary presence to many families who once welcomed us with hugs and handshakes.”
Riding around on a mail route gives a person time to observe what’s happening. Bowers said she saw a noticeable decline in traffic this past week, with parking lots emptier. She worries about local businesses and how they’ll survive.
“These businesses are run by people and they're suffering because of this quarantine,” she wrote.
Bowers said she notices more people selling belongings by the road.
“Without a paycheck, people are starting to feel the empty wallet pinch and are having to sell anything they can to make some cash,” she said. “Last week, I saw a house with a collection of kids’ riding toys out front for sale. I didn't have the heart to check the windows for little faces looking out at me, but I'm sure there are a few broken hearts as they watch their toys waiting to be sold. They're too young to understand. My heart goes out to the parents who have to endure these sacrifices.”
Bowers said she sees good things happening, too.
“I talked with one of the county school bus drivers who told me all about the meal-delivery program they're doing,” she wrote. “If you haven't heard about that, it is one of the most amazing things happening in our county right now. Bus drivers are loading up their buses full of meals and delivering them to families who rely heavily on school meals to feed their children. They are driving all over feeding people who need it and it is absolutely one of the most beautiful acts of kindness I've seen! Everyone involved in this deserves a huge thank you.”
Bowers said she’s also encouraged by young folks checking on their elderly neighbors. She added that the post office is working to keep mail deliveries going.
“We're nervous about the virus just like you, but we know you rely on the mail and we've got you covered,” she said. “We're all paying attention to what's going on out there and looking out for our customers. We will get through this together.”
I appreciate Bowers taking the time to write down her point of view as a local mail carrier. And I thought it was interesting.
I also heard this week from a Madison County woman who is sick and concerned that she has coronavirus. When symptoms hit, we want answers. We want them fast. But tests have been limited, and people have been unsure what to make of certain physical issues.
The woman said she went to the Durhamtown ATV park with her kids the weekend of March 14-15. She said she started running a fever on March 15.
“Monday (March 16) I go to work like normal because I can still function,” she wrote. “Being a single mom, I have no choice but to keep money coming in. Of course, watching all of this going on in the world and unfolding in front of us, I thought maybe it’s psychologically messing with me. So much so I had co-workers feel me by touch to confirm temperature, since we didn’t have a thermometer in the first aid kit and couldn't find one in stores.”
The woman got sicker during the week. She was swabbed for flu and strep and was negative. But she hadn’t been able get a coronavirus test as of March 22. She said she was frustrated that the U.S. doesn’t have enough tests, bed space, nurses, ventilators and supplies.
“If in fact I do have this invisible enemy, because I can’t get tested to confirm or answer simply due to the extreme shortage of supply, then I have now exposed many people unintentionally,” the woman wrote. “These people may not even know they are carrying it and carrying on in society as normal just passing this pathogen on to the next.”
I feel for this woman and for all who are struggling with sickness, uncertainty, job loss, hunger and other issues. I’m also pleased when I see efforts to help those people who are hurting, because it’s times like these where some humans truly step up and shine. If you see examples of this, please let me know. This absolutely warrants publicity, too, amid all the bad news.
I’m trying to write down thoughts not just for this publication, but for myself, too, a therapy of sorts. And I’d encourage others to write down their personal perspectives in this moment. It is historic. We can all see that this will be talked about in 50 years. And if you feel like sharing any personal experience with me for publication, or just in a one-on-one way, you can email me at email@example.com. I’m not looking for good or bad, just real. I don’t have an agenda except to try and document this in some way, and not just the numbers, but what real people around here felt, saw and lived during a suddenly strange time.
Take care of yourself. And be good to others.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.