My reprieve from the COVID-19 call center was only for a few days. (You can read about my stomach-churning anticipation here and actual experience here.) By Thursday, my division was being asked to ante up again. At one point, my boss wanted me to literally drop everything and high-tail it back to the call center.
Fortunately for me, I was working on an assignment for her so she relented. I could go Friday instead … and Saturday. I was furious (and I blame my quick temper to a lack of estrogen although I’ve had a quick temper all my life). But I got through my day, went to a yoga class, and by evening was shrugging it off … except for the idea that I might miss visiting my mother who is currently staying with my sister in southwest Florida. We had been told our vacations could be rescinded, and the plan was to go the following weekend.
After talking it out with my husband, I canceled the trip. My mom is 96 but I have to believe that there’s still time for us to see each other again. I called her, told her I might have to work, and that workplace plans were being changed day-by-day. She understood but she sounded a bit disappointed. Better safe than sorry, I thought, as I rung off. Even though I wouldn’t say it to her–she would only “pooh, pooh” the idea–I didn’t feel that visiting her right now would be the responsible thing to do.
As it turned out, I only had to work four hours in the call center, but it was a harrowing four hours. The phones–all twenty of them–rang nonstop. I took 53 calls that morning, roughly the same number I took in a full day the week before. I would have taken more but for one bathroom break, and I switched off my phone a couple of times just to catch my breath. The calls were on average five minutes long and, as soon as I replaced the handset, the phone would ring again.
Some callers were calm, just wanting information, sometimes confirmation that they were doing all the right things. A few callers were angry. One was angry because she witnessed healthcare workers in a respiratory ICU not wearing face masks and gloves. Another caller complained that her child’s school was letting sick children attend classes. Another woman–a caller I won’t soon forget–was desperate for a test. She had no doctor, no health insurance, was new at her job and surrounded by people who regularly traveled. She wasn’t feeling well, and she was an older woman.
As I gave her the usual spiel about needing a doctor’s order for the test, she became angrier and angrier. Finally she hung up on me. I didn’t take it personally. I would have been angry too. She needed a target and I was willing to oblige.
Although I already harbored suspicions that my state government was not well-organized in its approach to COVID-19, that morning in the call center turned those suspicions into certainties. After two weeks of addressing COVID-19 we still were getting calls from healthcare providers who didn’t know what to do with patients who might need to be tested. People we had referred to their local county health department called back saying their local county health department was referring them to us. Most callers still thought we were a hotline or that we could arrange testing when all we could do was provide general information.
I took too many calls from people who said their primary physician refused to see them.
And, worse, I was given “updated” information regarding testing protocols that conflicted with what I had been told the week before. Information that was not available on the state’s website or in any of the documentation I had originally received from the call center. The woman working next to me hadn’t received the so-called updated information and was, frankly, horrified when I told her what I had been told. Near the end of the morning, I was giving callers more information than they probably needed because I no longer knew what was true and what wasn’t.
I wasn’t feeling the preparedness in all this.
After lunch, I returned only to be sent back to my office for the afternoon and foreseeable future. The line for the call center had been moved to a real call center. Far as I know, I won’t be taking any calls from the public, or healthcare providers, or snowbirds whose wings have been clipped.
The silver lining in all this for me is the rediscovery of Lafayette Park last week. I went there after work on Friday and again on Saturday. It’s a rough but beautiful trail. Here’s a few photos I took over the past two visits.
The park abounds with large old trees and beautiful flowering bushes.
One tree I just adore. Its branches are so gnarly and arthritic-looking, we figure it must be in the 400-500 year-old range (don’t quote me). I appreciate that the park elected to tether one of its extensive, low-hanging branches to the trunk rather than lop it off. These next photos are different perspectives of the same tree.
Friend of the blog, John Howell, recently noted how important it is that we think of our blessings during difficult times. You can read about it here. I’m doing my best, John. Nature is full of blessings for me, as are these critters.
Marie A Bailey
Writer, blogger, knitter, cat lover, and introvert.