This week, many people began to feel the funk set in. But I also saw many people finding silver linings in this situation that’s been thrust upon us. Some people are saying the Covid19 pandemic is this generation’s 9/11. I remember those weeks following that horror – and how so many people were suddenly energized to create community in some way.
Facebook, this week, has been a kaleidoscopic panorama of people sharing music, recipes, tips for being successfully stuck at home, new podcasts raising money for scores of suddenly out of work people. It’s like an Infinity Mirror of silver linings. It’s beautiful. It’s like Hollywood blew up, and the fragments became mini studios in the palms of – well – everyone! People are trying to connect and support each other while in isolation.
I began to wonder if I should be doing more of that – but then I realized that I feel most connected when I look in my own rearview mirror at my passengers in their unprepared, unrehearsed lives. I love hearing about where they’re going, and taking their temperature on how they’re feeling during this pandemic and how it’s affecting them.
I started being a ride share driver about a month ago. “Way” back then, I drove students to and from school, young people to parties, families to shows and athletic events. I drove people to churches, laundromats, salons, saloons, restaurants, train stations and airports. I drove all sorts of people to all sorts of jobs.
These past two weeks? Everything has changed.
Most of the people I transport now, are essential workers getting to and from their jobs. But not all of them. Here are just a few, from this past week, that I keep thinking about:
My first ping yesterday morning, at 5am, was from a passenger who’s account name was “Victor Hugo!” That started my day off with a chuckle and wondered if I should greet him as “Jean Val Jean!” Turns out that was really his name, and I was to transport him and his very pregnant wife to a hospital. She was scheduled for a C-Section next week, but woke up not feeling well. They were looking forward to the “sheltering in place” with their newborn, but during this pandemic, they were very concerned about stepping foot in a hospital at all.
Can’t blame them for that. But interestingly –
This past Sunday, I picked up a nurse’s assistant who worked at that very hospital.
She said, “Something that you probably haven’t heard on the news was that yesterday this hospital released 10 patients who had been treated for Corona Virus and recovered!” We mused, wistfully, about how this kind of news, more widely proliferated, would likely calm some the panic out there.
Monday, around 4pm, I got a ping to pick a woman up at a local Bar and Grill. It was a two-stop trip. The first trip was to a local liquor store, and the second trip was back to the Bar and Grill. Knowing that all restaurants and bars are only doing takeout and delivery – including alcohol – I figured it was someone who worked there and was short on inventory. I pulled up,
She got in. She called the liquor store , en route, to alert them that we were near. The man on the other end of the phone had trouble understanding her. So did I. She was so inebriated, she could barely speak! NOW I realized she didn’t work at the Bar and Grill, she lived above it. The kind man with a gentle smile from the liquor store brought the bottle of vodka out to the car. On the drive back, with the bottle on her lap, she called her AA sponsor. She said, “I don’t want to drink no more.”
As I dropped her off, I was at a loss as to how to make a positive difference in her day. I looked at her with the kind of look that I hoped said,
“I see you, and you matter.”
I told her to take care of herself and I complimented her shoes. That prompted the only smile she gave me.
I said a prayer for her, and began to question how I might’ve handled the situation better.
The very next morning, I was driving Benjamin to his job. I asked him how the Corona Virus was affecting his life. He was upbeat, but he said, “well, all of the AA meetings are closed, but I’m reading the book, and another one, and looking for an online meeting. I’m OK though.” He told me a bit more of his story. So, I relayed my story about the woman to him, and asked how he thought I could’ve handled that better.
He reassured me that what I did was kind and appropriate. Then we talked about his journey to recovery for the next 15 minutes of the drive. It was lovely. He has found discipline, joy and purpose through some very hard knocks. His story was inspiring. It gave me hope for all people struggling with addiction. It was uplifting.
Yesterday, I picked up Betsy. She had luggage. I said, “Are you traveling?”
She said, “Yes, we still travel.”
Turns out, she’s a flight attendant!
I said, “Tell me about what’s it like for you right now!”
She said that it’s really eerie to see so many of their planes grounded. She told me that it’s very hard for them and about how the community of flight attendants really take care of each other during hard times: Say, if one of them has children at home, another flight attendant will offer to do their grocery shopping for them to help them stay away from the crowds. They’ve all taken fewer shifts so that they might ALL avert a furlough. She said, “Really, we’re all just gypsies in the sky.”
I asked her what she would like people to know. She told me that the planes have never been cleaner. She said, “I swear those seats are cleaned so well and so often they won’t be the same color by the end of this pandemic!” She wants people to know how very much flight attendants appreciate it when the passengers thank them for being there, and how much the flight attendants, in return, appreciate that they are flying. She says that most people come in with their own disinfectant wipes and wipe their area down, for good measure, even though the plane has been completely disinfected before they get on. One woman who was doing this, apologized to Betsy. Betsy said, “No! That’s OK! We disinfect the plane for you – when YOU clean, you’re also doing it for your crew and your crew’s families, so we Thank you!”
As Betsy pulled her luggage out of the back of my car, she thanked me for still driving, so people like her could get to work. I thanked her for still flying.
You what I think? I think these times that challenge us – actually hold tremendous potential to really SEE each other.
When I look in my rearview mirror, at my passengers – I sometimes see uncertainty, fear, irritation, resignation, exhaustion or disbelief at this overall situation – but then I see shoulders relaxing, smiles and appreciative eyes – appreciative that they feel seen, I think. That’s community too. I will keep on choosing to use this “special” time to connect more deeply with people; To see their fears and their silver linings. To show them that even strangers care about their health and their experience.
Hopefully, when this test is in ALL of our rearview mirrors, we will nod our heads and feel a sense of – not merely relief – but also – a deeper sense of connection and communal support.
And that will be the Lift that keeps on lifting!