An anonymous narrator describes their experiences so far with the COVID-19 pandemic and the Safer at Home order in Wisconsin. The narrator describes the shift to working from home, and how she and her partner are navigating a change in employment status due to the pandemic. The narrator discusses the economic and social systems that are being clarified due to the pandemic.
Narrator Name: Anonymous City Staff
Interviewer Name: Danny Atwater
Date of interview: 4/18/2020
[00:00:00] Start of interview. What is your connection to Madison?
[00:00:56] What have the past few weeks looked like for you in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Safer at Home order?
[00:02:44] Has your partner’s job situation changed recently?
[00:03:53] What has work looked like for you during the past few weeks?
[00:04:58] What types of professional development have you gotten to do?
[00:05:58] Outside of work, what have you been doing to keep busy?
[00:06:34] When you look around the neighborhood, what does it look like right now?
[00:07:16] What good do you think will come from this pandemic?
[00:08:54] Is there anything else that you’d like to talk about?
[START OF RECORDING]
Interviewer: My name is Danny Atwater, and I am a Library Assistant for the Madison Public Library. This interview is being recorded as part of the Madison Living History Project Safer at Home story series. Today’s date is Saturday, April 18, 2020. This interview is being conducted via the conferencing software Zoom. I am joined today by an anonymous individual. How would you describe yourself and your connection to Madison?
Anonymous: Currently, in terms of employment, I’m working for the Madison Public Library as a Page. I’ve worked at a couple of locations: at Lakeview, which is my neighborhood, and the Monroe Street Library as well. I have lived in Madison most of my life, so I feel pretty deep roots here. I grew up on the west side, and have lived on the northside now for the last nineteen years, and also spent some time in the Isthmus area.
Interviewer: What have the past few weeks looked like for you in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Safer at Home order?
Anonymous: For my partner and I, prior to this whole thing, we started on this journey of simplifying our life anyway, where we paid off our house and paid down all of our debt and everything. So we are already living more of a basic life, focused on moving forward into retirement years with a more simplified budget and things really focused on what was important in our life and how we wanted to live our last forty, fifty years or whatever’s left for us. The thing I think has changed most is that, even though we had simplified, we had a reliance on this system of jobs that were in place. We felt like our jobs were pretty secure, and it was a safe place to go because we weathered other economic downturns, but it’s so different in not being able to actually, physically go to a job. I think that that’s had the greatest impact on us, as well as not being able to share this experience physically with friends—not being able to have people come over, and not being able to hug your friends, or do these normal things, or going out for dinner, or just—
I think that’s been the greatest change for us, not having this close social network where you’re able to share the space with other people as well.
Interviewer: Has his job situation changed recently at all?
Anonymous: Yes, he was laid off. This is the first time since he was sixteen years old that he’s been laid off from work. That was a little shocking, and it’s not even a situation where he can just go out and get another job, because every place is closed down.
As I was saying before, we were lucky in that we planned a really simple lifestyle and don’t have a lot of the same debt and financial responsibilities that other people do. We’re able to—even though this has been a pretty significant knock-down of our income—we’re still able to manage it. I think that the greatest thing is the psychological, of just not having that control over whether or not you’re going into a physical environment.
Interviewer: You mention that you work for the library. What has work looked like for you during the past few weeks?
Anonymous: The biggest thing to get used to is going from a situation where I’m very physically active, and I’m lifting things around, and I’m interacting with patrons and having those simple conversations with people that are really important to me, and just not having that has been difficult. However, the blessing side of that is I’ve been given an opportunity to do professional development that really was not available to me in my role at the library. I’m getting into a groove with projects and work groups that, prior to this, would have been unavailable to me. It changed my mindset in a way where I’m feeling like I actually could contribute in a way that I wasn’t able to contribute before.
Interviewer: What types of professional development have you gotten to do?
Anonymous: I’ve always had this interest in racial equity, but again those opportunities within my job position have been limited in terms of what kind of workshops I can attend and everything. And now I’ve been able to do that. So I’ve done a lot of professional development in that area, watching lots of webinars, reading lots of information. I’ve been connecting with other library staff and work groups to become more involved in actual processes, like looking at how we hire people, how we hire Pages, and what kinds of questions may exclude people of color or from different cultural backgrounds, and how to open it up so that we have a more culturally and racially diverse work environment.
Interviewer: Outside of working from home, what have you been doing to keep busy?
Anonymous: I’ve been doing lots of little cleaning-out projects. I cleaned my closet and cupboards. We also have a pretty big garden, so we started some seeds and I’ve been cleaning out garden beds and digging around in the soil, and being much more aware on a daily basis of what little things are popping up and how things are progressing that way.
Interviewer: When you’re outside and you look around the neighborhood, what does it look like right now?
Anonymous: I think in my particular neighborhood, it seems like a lot of people are doing the same sort of things. Again, the nice thing is that people are getting out. They’re walking their dogs.There seems to be this lack of distinction of what a Sunday looks like versus a Monday because most people are not working now. So you see a lot more people walking and being out in nature and tending to their yards.
Interviewer: The Covid-19 pandemic has been devastating for many people, but what good do you think will come from this, when it’s all said and done?
Anonymous: I’m really hoping—There are people, definitely, in dire straits that are working to get basic needs, and what I’m hoping is that moving forward we start challenging the systems that are in place right now that have created situations where one change can make someone’s life fall apart. I’m hoping that this creates a point where we’re evaluating the systems that we have in place and the structures, so that we can build more equity and–I guess the word would be safety, into our systems that would allow people to save money for emergencies, to—I guess I’m not articulating this very well, but I’m hoping that we really consider the entirety of our social fabric, of all populations, and how we can move forward together to maybe dismantle some of the systems that are not working and to create a system where a pandemic or a natural disaster doesn’t come along and completely devastate someone’s life.
Interviewer: Before we wrap up, is there anything else that you’d like to talk about?
Anonymous: Gee, I guess I feel like there’s this paradoxical thing that’s happening that is bringing all of these things into sharp focus in terms of how we relate to one another, how we care for one another, what kinds of things are important in our life, and what kinds of social and economic systems need to be changed. If nothing else happens, I hope that there is an awareness of all of those things that comes out of this and I’m hoping that we take this into the future and do better.
Interviewer: Thank you for sharing your story with us today.
Anonymous: Sure. Thanks for asking.
[END OF RECORDING]