Holding Out For a Hero

Holding Out For a Hero

The students who worked as essential workers during Covid-19

Essential workers are out there grinding despite the drama of lockdown, providing us with food, healthcare, petrol, and all the essentials. As I sit up in my room doing my daily tasks, eating my daily food, going on my daily walks, watching my daily updates, I wonder what it might be like to live a life much less simple. What would it be like to be an essential worker serving this country and, more specifically, dirty Dunnaz? How do these students balance the pressure of essential work, dealing with Karens and studying?

Viki works at Pak ‘n Save when she’s not too busy studying and being a TikTok star. She said being an essential worker makes her feel “important and needed. To be able to serve others is rewarding and I consider myself blessed to still be able to provide service.” To us general public (the fans), she says that people should “be more appreciative of all our essential workers, they sacrifice their time and themselves to be on the front line providing services to everyone during this time. As we do our part, we ask you to do yours by wearing your masks, social distancing, and staying safe. And as Dr. Bloomfield said, spread your legs, not the virus,” she said. 

Luka* is an essential worker at New World and finds it “kinda strange”. “Without Covid-19 people don’t really think these minimum wage jobs are important but when lockdown happens a lot of minimum wage workers have to pretty much keep the country going,” they said. Luka also studies, and touched on the difficulties working during lockdown brings regarding this, saying that “trying to keep on top of uni, extra curricular activities, and then working as an essential worker is kinda hard to balance.” They also flat, and said they get “a little scared that I can get my bubble infected just for being at work and then returning back home.” A parting message from Luka: “be nice to essential workers. We don’t have to go to work, we would also like to be at home being safe. I also must say that being at work is a kinda nice social outing.”

Meli is a legend who works at Countdown. He says that it’s an “honour and privilege to be able to serve people during a global pandemic.” “I haven’t been an essential worker for that long but I’ve grown to appreciate and respect people who have done this daily for years. I’ve worked with people who’ve been at the supermarket for 30 years. They wear their hearts on their sleeves and they serve selflessly,” he said. Compared to last year’s lockdown, he said that “people still panic buy with long lines outside the supermarket even though Jacinda said we will not close,” you fools! To everyone at home, Meli says “please be kind and considerate of others when shopping.” A truly impeccably mannered king.

Rutz works as a kitchen hand at Studholme College. “Shout out to the kitchen assistants and chefs out at Stud. The students and staff there make work rewarding during lockdown. Also a big thanks to my flatmates who are always providing transport when I need it. There are also so many other essential workers doing the most for the community,” she said. Being an essential worker has made Rutz realise how privileged she is to do what she does. “Most of my family and friends have been affected by this pandemic by experiencing job loss and struggling financially but also having to increase their workload, doing things such as acting as teachers for their kids,” she said. To the people she serves, Rutz says: “look after your mental health and wellbeing during lockdown. Reach out to your lecturers and support staff and services around at Uni, they’re there to help you. Kindness is gangsta so be kind to yourself and others and stay safe.”

Michelle works for the Southern Community Laboratories in the Microbiology Department in the Dunedin Hospital, and she’s also studying Medicine. “We receive thousands of Covid-19 samples daily from the Otago region as well as some from the Auckland region to help increase turnaround times for results. Being an essential worker is a service that I’m proud and happy to do for my community, although it can be stressful and very unpredictable, we have an exceptionally diligent team who strive for accurate and swift results,” she said. Working with Covid-19 samples, Michelle said she can become “a bit anxious, but I have full trust and belief in our department’s protocols for handling samples to keep us safe.”

Like Luka, Michelle touched on the struggle of being a student and essential worker, but said “service and community are very important values in Pacific cultures and are values I ground myself in, so no matter the hurdles, I always strive to give back to my community. Seeing an increase in samples at the lab shows me the solidarity and resilience in our community.” To us commoners, Michelle says: “I have aroha for the amazing mahi all of you are doing in response to Covid. It’s a trying time and as essential workers are doing their part, it’s important you do your part and follow the rules. It’s also important to keep a balance during this time, eat well, sleep well, watch your lectures, keep in touch with your family, and to echo Minister Chris Hipkins, spread your legs x. Please wear a mask in public, get tested, get vaccinated and keep your community safe. Kia kaha!”

Kim*, a registered nurse, kept it plain and simple with a message to everyone. “Stay the fuck home. I’ve been seeing way more people outside going for a walk, most not wearing a mask. This shit is airborne which means if you walk past someone who is positive with the Delta strain and you both don’t have a mask on, you will probably get it. So stay the fuck home, mask up or face the consequences and end up in a healthcare system that will probably collapse under a major delta outbreak,” Miss Queen said. If you weren’t already listening to Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, listen to this REGISTERED NURSE who also KNOWS THEIR SHIT.

Essential workers are quite literally keeping this country up and running. After talking to all these folks I am also convinced that they are the most polite and nicest people in the world, and we don’t deserve them. They thanked ME for asking for their thoughts and comments. Literally what the fuck! I love all essential workers with all my heart and soul. Thank you for your service!! If anyone in your bubble is an essential worker, please give them a big hug and smooch for me.

*Names changed.

This article first appeared in Issue 23, 2021.
Posted 2:03pm Monday 20th September 2021 by Susana Jones.