"Why Not Just Be a Total Jerk? It’s the End of the World as We Know It"

By Bryan Menegus on at

Are you a frontline worker dealing with new stresses or irresponsible management? Is working (or not working) from home starting to take a psychological toll? How are you coping with reopening? Submit a story using this Google form or send me an email with the subject line “My Covid Story” and provide as much detail as you’re comfortable with.

Authors’ identities have been verified, and submissions have been edited for length, grammar, and clarity.


Charles, power line tree pruning, Ohio

Because our industry is considered “essential infrastructure,” I haven’t missed a day of work yet because of the virus. I have to wear a mask when I go into the gas station to buy my morning coffee before work, but little about my day-to-day has changed. What has changed is my attitude towards all those “non-essentials” that are going on and on and on in news stories and the commercials about how, “we’re all locked down,” or “since we’re all working from home,” or about how they have to “go back out into the world.” Are you for real? Many of us were never given the option to stay home. (And those damn “HEROES WORK HERE” signs... Please, we aren’t heroes, we’re just trying to make a living.)

But those who did have to “shelter in place” act like the world is all scary now. That there is some sort of great invisible monster out there, lurking around the next corner just waiting to get them. Don’t get me wrong here, I know people who have gotten sick and people who have died from covid-19, but there seems to be this overarching sense that everyone has stayed home, that everyone had 3+ months locked in their homes.

How this most directly impacts me lately is that those “non-essentials” are acting like even bigger jerks towards us while we are trying to simply do our jobs. We cut trees away from the power lines. We keep the power on. We keep the power on!!! But do they give us any leeway when it comes to manoeuvring our giant lumbering bucket trucks down city streets filled with parked cars and devoid of people? Do they answer the door when we need them to move one of those cars? Do they understand that we don’t do the things we do to trees because we enjoy brutalising trees? No no and no! They are terrified to open the door. Or they were awake until who knows when and are still asleep at 9:00 in the morning. Or 10:00.

I see it happening to the people who work at the gas station too. And the grocery stores. People, in general, have gotten much more overt in their rudeness. It’s as if the wheels are falling off of society so they figure, “What the hell? Why not just be a total jerk? It’s the end of the world as we know it.”

To these folks, I have a simple request: Please remember that you are not the centre of the world. Your quarantine wasn’t my fault. You seem scared and anxious. I get it. But please, don’t be a jerk about it. Those of us who didn’t just get a three-month paid (or unpaid) vacation are just trying to do our jobs here.

Ally, emergency call dispatcher, England

At the start of the pandemic I remember being really worried that if someone got sick that we’d be kept at work and have to live in our headquarters. I shared these thoughts with my inspector who said she didn’t think that was likely and they were looking at all contingency options to safeguard people.

Work-wise our work calls immediately dropped about 50%. No one was going out and it hadn’t yet got to the point where people in relationships were so frazzled they were having loud domestics. Hardly anyone was driving, so much fewer road accidents, so work was eerily quiet. Normally at that time of year our calls start ramping up in the warmer weather in the UK and by June we normally are inundated, so it felt very strange to be sat there twiddling our thumbs – which gave us more time to talk to each other, and so more time to worry.

During this time I became a well-being champion on my shift and tried to focus people on being kind to each other and themselves. Lots of anxiety going around during this time.

Lots of my friends have been furloughed and they were all stuck at home with children 24/7 and we formed mini online support groups for this. I felt lucky that I could continue my normal routine of full-time work as you can’t take emergency calls at home. My off days had been spent studying for an online degree so my routine didn’t change too much. However I was very up and down emotionally. It sometimes felt like the world was ending slowly and we were all going down with it. I am single and have no children and I could feel my anxiety levels creeping up so I had to make extra sure to use my support network and say how I was feeling rather than keeping it bottled up. More than once I cried in my car after shopping in local supermarkets as I felt so anxious and unsafe.

Things have settled down a lot now, we have very good restrictions in place at work where we all keep two meters away from each other at all times. There is only one entrance allowed into the building and one exit and we are pretty good at keeping ourselves socially distanced as we don’t move around a lot at work. As time has gone on I’ve felt less anxious and I’m grateful my friends all have common sense and aren’t putting themselves or others at risk. Throughout this time I’ve been paid as normal and I know that makes me one of the very lucky ones. I just can’t see how we stop social distancing now, it’s become the new norm.

Gerald, bar manager, Australia

I sold everything I had to travel for six months, and then start a life on the East Coast of Australia after leaving Perth on the West Coast.

I passed through Wuhan just as news hit of a new virus, riding on a bullet train. I left China for Japan about a week later, and travelled from Tokyo, ending up in Fukuoka before returning to Tokyo to fly out to Seoul just as the Diamond Princess docked. I left South Korea just before the first case was reported associated with the Shincheonji Church.

Got back to Australia on March 3 from the Philippines, just before our lockdown, and just short of two weeks before roadblocks were set up in Manila. I managed to dodge the virus all the way through from the initial reports until I got back to Australia and I’m now (still) trapped on the east coast because my home state has closed its borders. I was trying to visit friends before going to visit home. I’m now stuck here, living off of my savings, with no job and no job prospects, and sleeping in a friend’s spare bedroom. I’m effectively homeless.

I’m one of the fortunate ones. I still have savings and thanks to some close friends I have a place to sleep. My lifelong dream holiday of travelling through Southeast Asia turned into a slightly paranoid nightmare, which thankfully never caught up with me until I got back to my home country. Even so, I’m trapped thousands of kilometres from home.

Ed Meehan, teacher, Western U.S.

I am very lucky when it comes to financials. My wife and I both teach at the same high school and our jobs are secure. We are handling it fairly well emotionally.

When it comes to our jobs, it is very challenging. We are both teachers that love our jobs and our students and in the span of 24 hours we had to completely change everything. Theatre and education are things that absolutely require you to be in the same room with your audience or class. Personal connection is fundamental.

Educators have done a phenomenal job pivoting but it is a little crushing to know that we can’t really do it. We really hope to be back together in the fall but that means that we will have to shift modes drastically again and work with some distance learning hybrid curriculum. At the same time we hear of the massive cuts education will face as a result of the pandemic. I don’t know how we can make the proposed changes with less money. When corporations are bailed out big time but we are faced with deep cuts, we tend to feel a little demoralised.

That being said, I still count myself extremely lucky. My family is safe and secure. I am in no danger of losing my home and I can safely quarantine with a lot of space that suits my family. I just want to get back into the same room with my students so I can authentically connect, create a safe space, and make theatre.


If you would like to be included in a future edition of Sick Days, please use this Google form or send me an email with the subject line “My Covid Story.” Stay healthy and safe.

Featured image: Angelica Alzona (Gizmodo)