It takes 797 round trips from one side of my apartment to the other to get to 10,000 steps each day. The more preferable option is to get up at 4:30 am and go out to take a walk down the Embarcadero without worrying about breaking any self-isolation rules by running into a jogger, biker, or some random walker. And that is exactly what I did this morning, but it wasn’t long on my journey before I was seeing more people than I cared to encounter. So, I went into the side streets and made my way home.
As I headed back, I saw construction workers building apartments — those glass cages soon to be filled with members of the remote work revolution. I saw homeless people huddled next to each other, fighting off the cold that descends on San Francisco every night. I saw Amazon delivery vans, UPS trucks, USPS vans, and even bikers carrying packages. Others were busy making the roads better for those who might want to ride their “scooters” on them. They had on their plastic masks and their big, thick worker gloves.
It was 7:30 when I got home, and I was just shy of my 10,000 steps. I was also acutely aware of the chasms between the haves and have nots, and how the latter are forced to play a daily game of Russian roulette. You, me, and every other knowledge worker who can work from home may sit and wax eloquent about the value of remote work on Twitter, but we all know that is just a big fat lie. Our society, and the comfort it provides on a daily basis, only exists because of the unseen — those who toil because they don’t have a choice to stay at home. Those who, if they don’t work, they don’t eat and their rents don’t get paid.
Sad as it is, it takes streets emptied by a pandemic to make them visible. These are the people who are deep cleaning locations, keeping the grocery stores open, the food and essentially delivered. They are like the nurses who keep the patients in an ICU alive. And I wonder what is that we are doing for them? How much is enough to do for them? Will we, in fact, do anything?
I was reading about a collective decision undertaken by the 30 teams that make up the MLB. They have committed to giving a total of $30 million to its seasonal employees — one’s who don’t play on the field, or have cushy office jobs, or even have the luxury of being a full-time employee. They are, however, an integral part of the game — and without them, there isn’t really a baseball experience. This stands in sharp contrast to Facebook, which is making sure that, while its full-time employees are happy and get a $1,000 bonus in addition to full salaries, its contractors are left out in the cold.
I don’t expect anything different from Facebook, or any other large corporation, but we the people have the power to make a difference. What are we going to do to help those who can’t take the time off to shelter in place? Even a blind man can see that $1,200 check from the government is nothing more than just a cheap trick to win some votes It doesn’t matter how long this pandemic lasts. It could be six weeks or six months. Either way, for many amongst us, this could be an event with repercussions that last a lifetime. I am doing what I can, but I know it is not enough. Definitely not enough.
March 19, 2020, San Francisco