Brothers and Sisters:
The most common phrase we hear repeated on every news broadcast and missive from management is we “live in unprecedented times.” Well, yes we do. The last time the world was gripped by a pandemic of this magnitude was the Spanish Flu of 1918. Unless you are 102 years old and lived through those times, you have never seen anything like this in your life time.
The closest we have come in the lifetime of the majority of those reading this is the September 11 attacks. For those of us who remember that time, those events were localized to lower Manhattan, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The initial reverberations of those events and the quagmire we have found ourselves in today needs no elaboration. The curious thing is that within a couple of months and after the US led invasion of Afghanistan, the home front essentially returned to normal. People went back to work, planes began to fly and the deep surveillance state took hold.
In that instance, the enemy was known. In the instance of COVID-19, the enemy is invisible which makes it far harder to identify and to fight. It also adds a fear factor to the equation: anyone can be a carrier, anyone can become infected, anyone can die.
In Cleveland, we are fortunate to have a lot of work on the books. There are companies that are running maintenance routes at 32 hours a week and repair and mod teams at 40. The problem these companies are running into is exposing their employees to infection and as a result, they are supplying PPE as fast into the field as they acquire it. I have to say that Schindler Cleveland has done a very good job of dispersing anti-infection PPE to its field personnel.
As a resident, I am in a unique position. I have taken the opportunity of having an empty campus to turn my attention to all the little issues I have put on the back burner. As a result I can report I have made significant progress in repairing problems that could have been future shutdowns. Although I prefer working alone, the normal flow of students, faculty and staff keep me engaged on a daily basis. Now I am alone in a 30 building, 50 plus acre campus and it can be days or weeks between seeing someone walking the hallways. I wander an abandoned city where the residents fled and left everything in situ.
This plays on your psyche in odd ways. I have found myself becoming aware of my surroundings and realizing that if I am ever in trouble, I mean true trouble, there is no one to hear me scream for help. This has made me hyper aware of maintaining my own safety. Also, the silent and darkened hallways are reminiscent of many a horror movie or psychological thriller. The worst part is seeing all the outdated flyers for events past or events that never were.
In my opinion, the social distancing needed to contain the spread of COVID runs contrary to human nature. We are social animals who need others and thrive on contact in every form. There is a lot of concern about the long term psychological effect of the stay-at-home orders and the lack of socialization this pandemic has inflicted on society. I have no reliable statistics on whether this isolation has changed the overall calls for mental health services. My hope is that those who find themselves in need pick up the phone and make the call.
The IUEC has services available through its Member Assistance Program administered by Beacon Health Options. You can contact them at 1-800-331-4824, achievesolutions.net/iuec or in the Health and Wellness page of the Local 17 website, iueclocal17.org.
Until next month,
Work smart, work safe and slow down for safety.