Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Pandemic journal

LEEDS, THE UNITED KINGDOM—For some time, I’ve been restricting movement and mostly staying home, except the 2 times I went out last week for interpreting appointments. 
I’ve been sick for a few weeks, but judging from the symptoms, I’m quite sure it’s a normal flu, not coronavirus.
Last week, after I attended an interpreting appointment at LGI and the patient didn’t turn up, I walked to the coronavirus testing pod nearby, which looked like a construction site, and was told through intercom that I wasn’t allowed to get tested. They only accepted in-patients and no longer did community testing. But at the same time I was also told not to go to a GP if having any flu-like symptoms—doesn’t that mean that I can only get tested if it gets serious, and I’m near death? What then is the point? 
I wish I could write a nice, cheery blog post about new hobbies or creative activities during the pandemic, but I can’t. We all know the pandemic has affected lots of industries, lots of businesses, lots of jobs, and the people getting hurt the most are the self-employed who can’t work from home. Like me. 
I work as a face-to-face interpreter in the medical sector—is it deemed essential? I don’t know. For some time I was conscious I was taking all the appointments because the other Vietnamese interpreters seemed to disappear or stay away, then I got sick and cancelled a few. Now it’s a dilemma—if I stay home in self-isolation, there’s no sick pay, but if I accept the bookings, is it worth it? If I don’t have coronavirus, I’m still unwell and wouldn’t want to contract it and be attacked by 2 viruses at the same time. If I do have coronavirus, I could potentially infect doctors and patients and other vulnerable people at the hospital or clinic, and worse, might make the clinic shut down. And how do I make an informed decision when I can’t get tested?  
Not only so, I’m registered as interpreter at 2 companies—Language Line (which is all right) and a shitty company I shall not name for now. I called the shitty company the other day to ask when I would be paid, as I was told it would be about 3 weeks—as it turned out, they made a rule that for new interpreters, it would take 50 working days to process, which means that I wouldn’t be paid till May for my work at the end of February. No exceptions, even during the time of the pandemic. Fantastic. 
I also asked if they had any change about their cancellation fee policy, which I saw as inhumane—an interpreter has to cancel an appointment over 7 days before, or pay £10 within 7 days, £25 within 2 days (much higher than the hourly rate), even if they’re sick, unless they can get a doctor’s note, which you don’t get unless you’re sick for several days. If you have any flu-like symptoms, you can’t see a GP. I asked the shitty company, and no, there’s no change, no exception. Even in the time of a pandemic, an interpreter who falls ill has to choose between paying a fee of £25 (making the previous working hour free, and more) and dragging their sick ass to the hospital, infecting everyone. Amazing.  
My main income is now from writing, which isn’t much. The magazine for which I write is based in Texas, the US, and they’ve just been made to close temporarily for 2 weeks, which means that I lose an article this month and another article next month.  
I also have to pause asking for film jobs and work experience, because most film productions are now cancelled or postponed, and everyone is uncertain about what’s happening. 
Is it just me or is everything shit? 
The stress about money only makes my depression worse. 
But enough whining. We all survive, I’ve got my bf with me, my mom’s all right, it’s not the end of the world, and this too shall pass. 
My concentration these days isn’t good as usual, as I easily get distracted, but I’ve been reading and enjoying The Age of Innocence. I do wonder if I’ve been reading the Edith Wharton novels too close to each other—perhaps there should have been a bigger gap. The world she depicts, New York high society, is so stifling, with so many subtle rules and conventions. As my mind wanders, I start to compare Edith Wharton to Jane Austen again. I know Wharton sometimes writes ghost stories, or writes about a different class, such as in Ethan Frome, but when she does write about the same class and the same society, as Austen does in her 6 novels, there is a sameness about them, and her writing is great but also suffocating, whereas Austen, despite always writing about the landed gentry and focusing on a female protagonist, seems to have greater range and more versatility. Look at The House of Mirth, The Custom of the Country, and The Age of Innocence. Then look at Pride and Prejudice (bright, light, and sparking), Mansfield Park (sombre, introspective), Emma (satire with a mystery) and Persuasion (autumnal, warm, romantic), and see how different they are in subject and tone.  
Having said that, I do enjoy the writing of The Age of Innocence. I suppose I feel the suffocation more because I’m self-isolating, and recently read 2 other Wharton novels that were also suffocating. Hopefully I can find something to write about. 
How are you doing? I hope you all are fine during the pandemic. Take care.

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