Ambassadors Wanted

More memories from the early pandemic, continued from my previous post.

I have a few part-time jobs, and when the pandemic started, I lost all of them. Nothing I do can be converted to a work-from-home set-up. I used to be a graphic designer, but I’ve been out of that industry for over 10 years. A while ago I had signed up with a creative services job agency, so I let them know that I was available… like everyone else in the world.

People on Facebook were also scrambling for work: “Does anyone need me to tutor their kids? Can I walk any dogs for you?” Someone I knew through banquet serving had a lead on hospital screening jobs; where you intercept people at the door, take their temperature, ask all the COVID safety questions, etc. It sounded perfect for unemployed serving staff. Ultimately, the jobs were filled with newly unemployed hospital staff.

Being self-employed, I don’t qualify for EI. It’s one of the pros/cons of not working for The Man. I’m used to the highs & lows of not having a salary. I had enough saved up to coast through the lean times, as long as the pandemic didn’t last longer than a month (ha!). Okay, and I do admit: I also had my privileged existence. I had parents and a boyfriend who would’ve lent me money if I needed it. I was never going to end up on the streets (plus there was freeze on evictions during COVID). I’m extremely grateful to have that safety net, because many people don’t. But… it’s also a pride thing. I’m an adult in my 40s and I chose this career path. It’s not anyone else’s responsibility to bail me out. I’d rather go into debt with the bank than admit I need help…. that’s what grownups do.

Then the government came along with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Oh, sure, I’ll take THAT! It’s the government, who cares. I also had residual money coming in from my comedy album. That income was sort of a loophole because it counted as dividends, not employment. The graph shows how residuals were pretty juicy at the beginning of 2020, but alas they dropped off as the year went on.

I wanted to work part-time, at least. Do something. I felt guilty about being paid to stay home, when people were still required to work their grocery store jobs. I donated some of my CERB money to organizations that would provide protective gear for front-line workers. It’s crazy that masks were so scarce at the time. Later on, I applied to be one of the admin people for when the vaccine clinics were on the horizon. This pandemic is a world-changing event, and it would be great to help with “the war effort”. Be on the right side of history. I mean, I didn’t go to any super-spreader events or anti-mask marches, so at least there’s that. Overall, “doing my part” was the bare minimum they asked of all of us: Wash hands, wear a mask, and stay away from other humans.

The pandemic did create new job titles, like Social Distancing Ambassadors and COVID Compliance Officers. I thought it would be kind of cool to run around stores yelling, “NO TOUCHING!” like you see on prison shows. The word “ambassador” seemed funny to me, very dignified. And kind of the opposite definition of what they’re asking for. I think of ambassadors as making a connection between two parties, finding a common ground. “Welcome to our country. NO TOUCHING!”

About 10 days after I made that Facebook post, this needlepoint piece showed up in the mail. Amazing human Lori Gibbs stitched this for me, and I love it! I have it in my entrance hall… so people can see it and then go away, I guess?

By the early fall of 2020, some TV and movie productions started to slowly get back to business. But so did the second wave of COVID. At first, the shows were mostly shot in small towns outside of Toronto, and you had to be able to self-drive to set. No more public transit or group shuttle vans. When applying for a gig, you also had to submit the results of a negative COVID test from within the past 72 hours. That means if I want the gig for tomorrow, I’d have to go stand in line to get tested… yesterday. Are we supposed to get tested every three days, just in case a job comes up? It was ridiculous, and a waste of healthcare resources. I gave up on the idea of going back to work on a film set, at least not until the pandemic was over.

The government CERB payments were coming to an end, and my album residual money was shrinking. I renewed my efforts to find some kind of work-from-home gig. I had a Zoom interview for a remote data entry job in Vancouver…. MAN I’m rusty at job interviews! It did not pan out. I started doing freelance transcription, but it pays peanuts.

In October, I booked a small part in commercial. Welp, I guess I’m going back to set after all…

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