Louis Fowler’s Pandemic Journal: Essential Services

They usually say things are alright if the trains are still running on time; I believe things are still somewhat functioning if my neighborhood 7-Eleven is open for business.

I got up this morning and turned on the television for background noise. It came to the forefront, however, when I heard the U.S. Surgeon General telling a genteel row of smiling news-anchors that this week is going to “get bad.” Jesus.

Lacing up my Nike trainers, I walked the short distance to the 7-Eleven at NW 23rd and Penn; formerly a running joke, it’s now a waking necessity for me. As bad as it gets in this country, I know that my city—my neighborhood—is still safe and secure if that door opens when I pull it, be it morning, noon or night.

Thank God for their 100% Colombian coffee. It’s my drug of choice these days.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve become friendly with a few of the employees that work there; some days, I’ll see them two or three times, depending on my rampant need to escape these four walls and get in a few extra steps on my Fitbit.

I also see what they have to deal with on a daily basis, from everyday people just wanting an afternoon Big Gulp to the absolute dregs of humanity, drunkenly throwing punches as they gasp and swoon into the surrounding air, social distancing going straight to Hell over by the soda fountain as well as the grimy parking lot.

7-Eleven employees, considered part of the “essential workforce” of this country, don’t get time off to heal like most people are. Instead, they’re there for every shift—some longer than others—on the frontlines of this fucking pandemic, serving us our gas and groceries with a beautifully forced smile, living on cheap sanitizer and cheaper prayers.

To dance on the edge of this sickness almost continually, I think we can all agree they deserve a more-than livable wage, right?

I hope that we remember all of those that served us throughout this pandemic. 7-Eleven employees—really anyone working at a convenience store or gas station, for that matter—deserve our respect and admiration, providing us with cigarettes, icy drinks and one-buck sandwiches during this time of tribulation, continually contributing an unknowing sense of total stability.

The next time you’re getting a cellophane-wrapped donut or a 20 oz. Red Bull, tell the person behind the counter “Thank you for your service.” But don’t shake their hand.

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When I got home a few minutes ago, I relaxed by reading that the Department of Justice is currently trying to craft legislation to suspend some of our Constitutionally-protected rights during the Coronavirus, including indefinitely detaining suspects.

I wonder what civil liberties will be gone when we come out of this. I wonder if they’ll even be remembered. I wonder if they’ll even be missed.

Every day I walk by this couch near the 7-Eleven. And every day there’s someone new sleeping in it. But tonight, it was just gone, a pile of black ashes where it once sat. I can’t be the only person who noticed, right?

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 Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.