The Coronavirus isn’t a Vacation, it’s a Chance

Sydney Kennedy, Editor in Chief

After I woke up on the morning of Sat., March 22, I called my boyfriend to make lunch plans.

I worked as many take-out shifts at Texas Roadhouse as possible in fear of those opportunities disappearing in the coming weeks. I told my boyfriend about my concerns that Gov. Phil Murphy would announce a state lockdown of sorts today. My boyfriend said we were running on a minimum of a few days’ time before that happened.

Each day, Gov. Murphy imposed a new set of restrictions in an effort to “flatten the curve.” I watched the restrictions change the nature of my job every day. Each day, the restaurant grew increasingly barren. Sunday, March 15, was the last night we closed at 10 p.m. On Monday, March 16, we closed at 8 p.m. per Gov. Murphy’s new curfew. On Tuesday, March 17, the world hardly remembered to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Texas Roadhouse followed Gov. Murphy’s take-out only policy.

We fleshed out an effective curbside-pickup system to make customers safer. Our curbside-pickup tent blew away almost every day. We wore gloves around the clock. We sanitized everything we touched. We gasped in fume clouds of cleaning products. We wondered when we would close altogether. We discussed the unknowns of unemployment. Good music never played the way it usually did.

My boyfriend’s prediction about how much time N.J. residents had until we were ordered to shutter away in our homes did not hold up. Gov. Murphy held a press conference in the early afternoon on Saturday to let New Jerseyans know he signed a stay-at-home order effective at 9 p.m. that night. In addition, nonessential businesses must close. Take-out services, like the ones offered at Texas Roadhouse, remained essential.

I told my boyfriend I didn’t think it was a good idea if we saw each other until the worst of the spread blew over. He is an asthmatic living with a pregnant sister, his toddler niece and an immuno-compromised mom. Not only did I spend the past week working and interacting with the public, but my dad’s boss was awaiting COVID-19 test results. They work in close quarters. It seemed irresponsible and reckless of me to jeopardize anyone’s health.

I spent my next few days in quarantine limbo. I didn’t work more shifts. I believed that to be unfair to my coworkers who needed to work to support their families. I couldn’t work while shrouded in uncertainty about my dad and subsequently myself. On Tuesday, March 24, I learned my dad’s boss tested negative — a relief, to say the least. I have not left my house once this week. I am fortunate to say I am not unwell and neither is any member of my family.

I have four grandparents who depend on my immediate family to deliver them groceries, as three of my grandparents are immuno-compromised. I hope we never have to stop delivering their groceries. My family practices social distancing to the extreme. We don’t get take-out, my dad is the only person who picks up groceries, and my mom works from home.

I can’t say I’m grateful for this experience when people are ill and dying, or when people are living in fear of contracting COVID-19 or spreading COVID-19. However, I am grateful for what COVID-19 taught me: You never know how quickly your life can change. Also, save your money.

Our busybody and sometimes selfish culture, especially here in New Jersey, no longer sits as well with me as it did before the outbreak. I don’t want to go back to exactly how things used to be, but I’m not sure I’ll get what I wish for. After all, the grocery store aisles are as empty as can be.

As of Friday, March 27, there are 8,825 positive cases and 108 deaths in N.J. Monmouth County residents can turn to the testing center at PNC Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J. if they are symptomatic, but the testing center will be closed on March 28 to test symptomatic healthcare workers and first-responders. I’m immeasurably grateful for the tiring and dangerous work they do to keep the public safe.