I Lost Both Of My Jobs In The Service Industry To Coronavirus Shut Downs, But I'm Trying To Stay Hopeful

Photo: Courtesy of the author
I Lost Both Of My Jobs In The Service Industry To Coronavirus Shut Downs, But I'm Trying To Stay Hopeful

On March 11, I was sitting around bored, scrolling through Facebook, when I started noticing more and more posts about the new coronavirus (COVID-19) in my newsfeed.

It didn't seem that serious to me. Personally, I thought it was only affecting people in China and Italy and that there was no way it would be seen or felt here in the US.

I'm not sure how anyone could have known the coronavirus would become a global pandemic. I know I, for one, didn’t.

I went on with my day like normal. It was my day off, so I did all of my errands. Then came the next day when I had my shift at work.

I have — had— two jobs as a server in the restaurant industry. One of my two jobs was at a restaurant inside of a hotel, which is where I was scheduled to work that day.

I walked in and went about my shift as I normally would, once again not thinking anything of COVID-19.

I didn't really understand what the big deal was, thinking it was just another thing the media was blowing out of proportion. My coworkers were talking about it, and they thought the same thing, which made me feel calmer.

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I finished my shift and went on with my day as I normally would. I played some tennis, went to watch the sunset at the beach, and went to the grocery store (Trader Joes, because it's my favorite aside from Sprouts, of course).

Then on March 13 (yes, it was Friday the 13th, too) I woke up, opened up Facebook again — and that's when I started to panic.

COVID-19 had arrived in the U.S. People here were starting to test positive for coronavirus, and it the news said it was expected to spread quickly.

I was heading to my second job, also at a restaurant, but not one in a hotel. I got there an hour into service, and the place was dead.

I'd been hearing from coworkers all that week that there was no one coming in to eat because of the fear of getting sick. But after seeing it for myself, I started to majorly panic.

I was panicking about the virus reaching my town, but I was mainly concerned for my jobs and my income. I have rent, a car payment, and many other bills, as most people do. My income is strictly tips from customers.

When there are no people, there are no tips, which means I do not get paid.

This was one of the only times I've really had a mini panic attack in my life. I had no idea what I was going to do, where money would come from next, or how I would pay my rent that month.

It was all hitting me like a train.

In the middle of all that anxiety, the phone rang at work. It was my boss. 

“I'm just letting you know no one will be in the restaurant today because they're all at Albertson's getting food, toilet paper, and water. In all my 60 years I have never seen such a thing.”

After that phone call, it began to sink in that the world is going to be different for a while.

My coworker decided to tune into the news.

Trump had declared a national emergency "to free up federal resources to combat the coronavirus [as] new travel restrictions into the US go into effect."

After hearing that from the president, I knew things were going to change, and change fast.I ended up not taking any tables and going home.

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The next day came with more cases in the U.S. and more fear in the news.

I got a text from my boss at the hotel saying I was called off my next two shifts because there'd been no one coming in. They hoped I understood.

I started crying at that point, knowing where this was all probably headed — eventually, they'd probably have to just shut down.

I talked to people about it and really started trying to think about what my next move should be. It was a really hard decision, but I came to the conclusion that, because I am not a spender and I have some money in the bank for a rainy day (and oh boy, was this it), I should ask if I could take the week off. Working at a hotel where people come in and out from all over the world every day wasn't exactly an ideal situation at the moment.

My boss totally understood and allowed me to have the week off, saying he would reevaluate with me the next week.

Well, during the course of that week a ton of restaurants were shutdown. A shelter-in-place order went into effect by the weekend.

The report in my local newspaper said: “On Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newsom asked that all bars, wine bars, wineries, night clubs and brew pubs close amid the coronavirus outbreak in California. He also called for restaurants to reduce their occupancy by half to enact 'deep social distancing' and a 'pragmatic response to the moment.'"

This made me panic, because a layoff meant I could be jobless for an extended period of time. No one knew how long this was going to go on. We still don't know.

I got the phone call from my boss at the family-owned restaurant where I worked informing me that I was being laid off and the staff was going down to nearly nothing.

I told her I understood and hung up.

I immediately started to ball my eyes out, knowing that I was about to be unemployed for who knows how long.

The next day I got a phone call from my boss at the hotel restaurant, saying they were also going down to nearly no staff. By the end of the week, they would probably shut down completely.

I froze after that phone call because I was officially unemployed with no insight into what the future holds.

I'm a person who works very hard; has maybe one day off a week. This was not what I intended to spend my life savings on.

I am sure there are many people out there who, unfortunately, can relate.

Over the next several days, I got countless emails from both of my jobs about how to file for unemployment so those of us who'd been laid off could get a little help until this is all over.

There are still no answers as to how long this is expected to go on, and I fear every day that this is permanent and I won't be able to find another job until the pandemic blows over.

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All we can do is wait and see what the future holds, because it's not in our control.

I saw a meme floating around the internet that says, “I actually miss people asking me what beers I have on tap while looking directly at the draft list.”

It made me chuckle, but it also made me realize I had been taking my job serving people for granted.

If I've learned anything from this pandemic so far, it's that I will never take my jobs for granted, and that I will always appreciate the little things in life.

The old saying that "you really don't know what you have till it's gone” is one of the truest sayings in life, and it becomes especially clear in times like these.

I was wrong not to have taken this seriously at the beginning, and I realize that now.

It's been truly mind-blowing to accept that this is now reality. I'm not going to just wake up tomorrow morning and it will be all over.

We all have to go through this together, which is tragically beautiful. All of us doing our part to stop the coronavirus from spreading is the most important thing for us to focus on.

I will also say that none of us, including you and me, can let our fear take over, especially when so much of what we read on the internet may be untrue. In times like these, we tend to forget that.

It is now March 24, and there is still no light at the end of the tunnel. More people are testing positive and dying every day.

The number of cases in my town jumped from 21 to 42 in the past four days.

And yesterday San Luis Obispo County opened an Enforcement Line "for residents to report violations of the County’s recent public orders, particularly the Shelter at Home order meant to limit the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19)."

I honestly haven't been fearful about catching the virus myself because I'm used to working in restaurants with customers visiting from all over the world, and where local people come in to eat when they're too sick to make food at home. There have been multiple times when I've touched the dirty fork of a customer accidentally while cleaning off their the plates, and I've never gotten sick from it.

But now, it's the fact that I could be a carrier without knowing it and unintentionally pass the virus on to someone else that worries me most.

I'm also worried about my financial situation and the future of the world. I'm anxious to know when this will blow over.

I do know that time will heal, though. After all, time is said to be the best healer there is.

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Lachlan McKenzie is a freelance writer and model with a passion for healthy, delicious foods and clean living. Follow her on Instagram.