I spent the first few weeks of my COVID-19 mass layoff trying to file for unemployment, reset my PIN, reach a human without the call disconnecting me, write letters to Directors, Governors & Senators to clarify confusing unemployment language around eligibility after missing the noted filing deadline, while cleaning up, researching and installing a new water heater because, what’s one more crisis. I’m glad people are finding creative ways to create community in these quarantined days of coronavirus 2020. I’ve needed the phone calls and texts offering empathetic ears.
I’m in between poor and rich. I live simply and frugally. Monthly internet is not in my budget. The little I used it, before, was in my office after work. Being sent home after the mass layoff, effectively disconnected me, although I’m grateful to have a key and can still use internet occasionally, unlike those who relied on libraries, now closed.
I explored getting basic internet in the hope my old computer would allow video conference connection, and learned “affordable” = $50 per month and may not include wifi, which would allow Zoom by phone without breaking data caps. $100 a month is not unusual.
These expenses add up. For families, the cost per person may not seem bad, but for an individual, it feels prohibitive. Even now, when I really want to Zoom. Does this qualify as a need? Humans struggle to ask for help, and it’s difficult when you know people are much much worse off. Some are dying. But, does that mean I shouldn’t want more?
In the growing conversations around wealth distribution, I wonder how the idiosyncrasies between income and wealth affect how decisions like internet affordability, affect disproportionately. Who can continue to work. Go to school. Register for unemployment. Get information. Have companionship that includes body language and tone of voice that make up the bulk and nuance of communication in the absence of in person gatherings.
Many are saying things will never be the same. In some ways, I hope they won’t be. I want the exposed issues with assistance we thought was there for people who need it and work environments with lipservice of not going to work sick but knowing you better show up no matter what, become conversations we have. If we relish the idea of greater electronic connection, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, but will we choose to find ways to build infrastructure that doesn’t leave people out and also doesn’t force people to forfeit their freedoms to opt in.
The joke this year is that Elijah won’t be coming to uphold social distancing. However, Elijah will be the only person at my seder. I just hope I don’t have to wait all night for their arrival. I love the concept of inviting Elijah, despite the conflict of opening the door at the end of the meal. I’ve taken to inviting Elijah to every gathering. What does it truly take to invite the stranger into one’s home? We think of strangers as people far from us, but sometimes it seems like strangers can be close, maybe even people we think we already know.
Tonight, conversation around moving from slavery to freedom, or the illusion of the abolition of slavery, is definitely going to be different this year. While my seder will ask the questions to myself, I pray, when we can leave our homes, maybe even before, we can have these conversations in ways that don’t pit ism’s against each other, includes us all and where creating an equitable world feels worth it and not like losing. And I pray, we don’t become permanently afraid to touch one another. I am going to need a good long strong hug when this is over.