The Pandemic: A personal experience

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I decided to document my personal experience of the coronavirus pandemic and California Lock down.

My name is Jailia Ortiz and I decided to document every day of the California LOCKDOWN or the “Stay at Home” order given by Governor Newsom. I live in Long Beach’s Bluff Heights neighborhood, in a tiny studio with my boyfriend and our cat Fudge. It is crowded with the three of us so I expect that our heads may butt from time to time. Regardless, I feel safe here. This is possibly one of the best neighborhoods you could quarantine in. The neighbors look out for each other here.The LOCKDOWN took affect at 12:00 am Friday, March 20th, 2020 and is said to go on for up to 8 weeks.

The days leading up to the news of the LOCKDOWN were some of the most stressful days I have ever experienced. Already having anxiety, my symptoms were exacerbated. I scrambled for last minute items and dreaded the thought of a “quarantine”. I, unlike many others, knew it was coming. I’ve kept a close eye on the virus since February like Cardi B and decided to stock up on supplies early. I beat the hoards of panicked buyers and warned my family to do the same.

 

Mar. 2nd,, 2020. Stocked up on pantry and freezer goods

Mar.4th, 2020. Household products already depleted at Target.

Mar. 13th, 2020. Sprout's, Smart & Final, Ralphs, and Trader Joe's. Panic buyers hit the shelves.

 

Thursday, March 19th: Everyone at this point is already aware that a LOCKDOWN will be put in place soon. Toilet paper, paper towels, baby wipes, milk, eggs, pasta, beans, rice, meat, disinfectants, and sanitizers already disappeared at this point. If you aren’t stocked up and needed any of these items, you are out of luck. Stores are unsure when household goods would be available again, but they assured us that food would be restocked daily. Even the items needed to make hand sanitizers are gone. Jesse and I decided to do laundry today. We are not fortunate enough to have on-site washers, so we have to wash down the street at the laundromat. Visions of viruses on every surface danced in my head. We wore a glove on one hand only to avoid handling coins and touching buttons and we Lysol wiped the tables we used. We bickered about using gloves, I said that it was pointless, if the virus was everywhere then contraction was inevitable. We touch our phones which touch just about everything else like 500 times a day. (Not a real figure). It wasn’t just the paranoia of viruses on every surface that irked me, but the thought of using the same washers as hundreds of others laid low in my head. What if washing machines themselves help spread COVID-19? Thoughts like these have been plaguing me since early February. The stress I suffered from over awareness on the virus was evident as pressure in my chest and eczema lesions that won’t heal.

After washing, we decided to head over to my storage facility so that I could collect a few items for the coming quarantine. I needed books of every genre, I grabbed two Harry Potter coloring books, and cross stitching and sewing supplies. After collecting my items, I hesitated in saying, “If I don’t make it, there is a box of journals, a box of photos, and a box of my dad’s things that I want my family to have. Everything else could be thrown away.” Jesse didn’t like that and spat some legal mumbo jumbo at me. We bickered about it down the elevator. Our next stop was Del Taco, not out of preference, but because all the work from rummaging through boxes made us famished and it was the most convenient option. (Who really likes Del Taco?) We went through drive-thru of course, the safest alternative. While drifting off in thought waiting in the drive-thru line, I decided that I would like to document this experience, not just through writing but through pictures as well. I snapped a picture of us waiting in line and I pondered for a moment, that I will always remember the exact point in time that we took that picture. I will remember exactly how I felt, the anxiety, the worry, the uncertainty, masked by a forced smile on my face. Jesse ate his burrito in the parking lot, being careful not to touch the actual burrito with his potentially virus infested hands. I decided to wait until we got home.

Though the memes remained lit throughout the week and offered the only source of sanity, (ironically), they could not entirely beat back the feeling of impending doom. The air itself carried an ominous feeling of uncertainty. The weather was intermittent and somewhat pleasant by day, but at night, the same weather gave me a sense of doom. I complained to Jesse about it. I said, “Why does it have to be windy and gloomy during the pandemic?” Soon after we got home, we got the news, the state of California was going into lockdown effective at midnight. My mind scrambled to gather the details. All non-essential businesses were to close. No groups exceeding 10. Stay home. Governor Newsom told us it would be a month long. As I watched the press conference, existence felt surreal. This is really happening, isn’t it? It didn’t feel like real life, it felt like a too realistic dream where upon waking you say, “crazy dream”, and get started on your regular life. Then you tell the next person you encounter, “I had a crazy dream that we were on quarantine because this deadly virus was spreading.” I keep hoping that I’ll wake up, but I know deep down inside that this is reality.

I work at an animal hospital as a receptionist. We are considered an essential business and will remain open. I created a group text with my coworkers, I told them the news. Our boss seems to be pretty unaware of what’s going on. I don’t understand how people can be so oblivious to news so important and life altering. He proved earlier in the week how unaware he was about the coronavirus. He came to work a few days ago surprised about all the stores being empty and ignorantly proclaimed that everything will “go back to normal in 2 weeks.” I was legitimately concerned if he had food and supplies at his home. He got fast food on his lunch and seemed confused about having to go through the drive-thru. These were concerning signs of an obviously oblivious person. I told my coworkers that our boss needs be made aware and that we need to have a meeting tomorrow. I text my boss and told him what just happened and asked him if he had a plan for us. His response, “Yes, we’ll talk tomorrow.” Not very comforting to one with anxiety in a pandemic.


Submitted: March 27, 2020

© Copyright 2023 Jailia Ortiz. All rights reserved.

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