On Getting Sick of Being Cooped Up and Washing Dishes in a Minefield

Tea & Two Slices is a long-running local news round-up by NEEDS frontman and veteran dishwasher Sean Orr, who lives and works in Gastown, deeply aware of his privilege.

So, what stage are we at now? Late quarantine? The end of wave one? The plateau? We’ve flattened the curve and bought ourself time. Health care capacity hasn’t been overwhelmed and testing and contact tracing has ramped up and we have a better understanding of transmission. Excellent.

But this might be where it gets really hard. This could be where fatigue starts to set in. Terms and phrases like ‘social distancing’ and ‘non-essential travel’ begin to lose their immediate impact. The nuances between Phase I and Phase II become lost, and people start thinking like Gary in the Comments, who declared that despite an unprecedented mass mobilization and global shutdown, the low numbers are “proof it was overhyped” rather than proof that listening to scientists fucking works.

People are sick of being cooped up. Parks were packed on Monday because hey, we deserve it. I was one of them. It was my birthday and I’m not even going to let a bear stop me from walking to the high knoll at Minnekhada, mmkay?

“The early optimism and community support begins to erode as the mind and body struggle to manage the persistent stress and sense of being out of control”: This Is Your Body and Brain on Coronavirus Quarantine. If you thought I was socially awkward before the lockdown, just you wait until you get a load of the new me. Ugh.

And yet, as talk about cautiously re-opening ramps up, a new kind of anxiety appears. I didn’t learn a new language; I didn’t start a new hobby; I didn’t get any new skills; I didn’t make sourdough bread; I didn’t learn guitar; and I didn’t write my magnus opus. It’s too soon. Return anxiety: ‘Coronavirus has caused a mass emotional event in our lives’.

Reading about places like Texas or Germany getting spikes because they opened too soon is one thing, but realizing that we are in the hands of ineffectual, top-heavy city council that has been mostly coasting on the coat tails of the province’s successes is a different story: Why has Vancouver been so slow in responding to even COVID’s simpler challenges? Have you ever watched a council meeting? It takes them 3 hours just to agree to send a report back to staff so they can reconvene two months later and argue about its findings:

It’s only this week — nearly two months after both British Columbia and Vancouver had declared public health emergencies — that city council finally set up a pandemic response and recovery committee.

Even if it’s meant to dovetail with work already done by staff, there’s no sense of urgency. Made up of the full council, the committee will meet for two hours every two weeks and file a report in midsummer.

And then there are restaurants. While we may have failed to do a hard reboot of our toxic industry I’m still looking forward to getting back in the pit dish area. But then I looked on the WorksafeBC website and there isn’t a single mention of the word ‘dishwasher’ to be found, even though some restaurants opened yesterday. Thankfully, these guys have broken it down: Six Frustrating Challenges to Reopening a Restaurant in the COVID-19 Era.

The simple fact is that none of the standard restaurant dish management practices are designed to account for aerosolization of viral particles, and solutions to the problem could lead to substantial increases in restaurant spending, either on labour, chemicals, or PPE, at the same time as we are only able to stay open because of government wage subsidies, which could disappear out from under us at any moment.

Cool cool cool cool. So basically I’m not going back to work for a very long time. Gotcha. I’m mean, I’m sure most dishwashers have the wherewithal and determination to refuse to work under safe conditions, right? Many Ontario workers are trying to refuse work due to COVID-19 fears — but the government isn’t letting them. I mean, that’s Ontario, that would never happen here…

So don’t be upset when we ask for your number to do contact tracing, yeah?

Especially after watching this: Black light experiment shows how quickly a virus like Covid-19 can spread at a restaurant.

And then there are schools. I can’t speak to the ‘return anxiety’ surrounding schools other than the fact that this crazy leftist in Ontario Doug Ford who put landlords on blast is once again right on this one: Ontario shuts schools until September because of COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, isn’t it telling that the groups that don’t think they should take a financial hit during COVID-19 are landlords and cops? $8.5 million cut to Vancouver police unacceptable: chief. $8.5 million sounds like a lot but that’s only a measly fucking 1%. That’s how bloated their budget is. This guy whining about 1% makes $350,000 a year. Let that sink in a little bit.

What happens when the emergency order ends? Opinion: Expect a rush of angry Burnaby landlords trying to evict you. Jokes on them, because a whole bunch of new supply just “magically” opened up.

It Only Took a Pandemic to Drop Rent Prices in Canada’s Most Expensive Cities. Wow! Who knew short term rentals had that much of an effect on a region with a less than a 1% vacancy rate except for almost every single person on the fucking planet?

Critics say Vancouver needs to recalibrate its housing strategy. You mean like never listening to supplyists ever again?

It’s like every week there’s an example of someone who has quit their job, over-leveraged themselves to get rich quick, and is looking for sympathy because they didn’t realize investments have inherent risks: Landlord says he’s owed thousands in rent, as Manitoba sheriffs won’t enforce eviction order during pandemic. Apparently,  the CBC forgot that actual tenants exist and accidentally excluded them from this entire article.

Of course, the downside of all the supply opening up is that the vultures are circling. One answer? Ban Corporate and Foreign Residential Property Ownership in Canadian Cities.

One thing this pandemic has done other than free up a bunch of supply is to really highlight which segments of society take the biggest risk for the lowest payouts: Between a rock and a hard place: Which workers are most vulnerable when their workplaces re-open amid COVID-19?

“What this analysis makes clear is that millions of workers face a high risk of contracting COVID-19 once their workplaces re-open. Many of those workers are women and low-wage workers who will find it difficult to turn down work, even if it is risky.”

Which is why it seems like a universal basic income would make sense and why it’s so frustrating to see progressives share it as a solution, other than what it is: just another temporary patchwork to the internal contradictions of capital. It’s not wealth distribution in any meaningful way and is just a tool to leverage cashflow: B.C. explores universal basic income for post-pandemic world.

Related: Humans are not resources. Coronavirus shows why we must democratise work.

That being said, BC finally got their shit together and realized that banging pots and pans is nice and all, but it’s not going to cut it: B.C. front-line health workers to receive pandemic pay top-up. I can only imagine the bureaucratic arm-twisting that allowed this to happen but I’m glad that it did.

This map shows where Vancouver residents can get free and low-cost food. I tried to find something cynical to say about this and all I could come up with is “next do a map of free and low-cost housing.” How am I doing?

More: B.C. government funds distribution of 3,500 smartphones to homeless people. Hey, that’s pretty good!

B.C. aims to give restaurants a liquor discount, expedite patio approvals. Keep going!

B.C. health minister warns U.S. border to be closed for ‘significant period of time’. Nice!

The Vancouver Foundation announces: Emergency Community Support Fund. Great!

Japan suicides decline as Covid-19 lockdown causes shift in stress factors. Wow!

This just in! Racist backwater that became a world class city overnight is still a racist backwater: Indigenous woman says she was punched, told to ‘go back to Asia’ while walking in East Vancouver.

Finally: Deadly attack at Toronto erotic spa was incel terrorism, police allege. While it’s good that we are calling it what it is, it still lets off the hook a broad swath of misogyny that is built into our culture.

Bonus: What is a wet market, and did you know you’ve probably shopped at one?

There are 2 comments

  1. Wet, dry, just mincing words. We have safe food practices and don’t have a filthy culture. What we also don’t have is the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. (google images)

  2. Don’t listen to Sherry, she’s got that swine flu that seems to keep popping up in Norty America (despite our not filthy meat culture!) and it’s making her a little loopy. Best of luck being you Sherry!

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