Phoenix Carter shares how the COVID-19 pandemic has been affecting work and personal life since the Safer at Home order went into effect in March. Phoenix discusses the days leading up to the library's closure, and about working at home and as a respite care provider.
[00:00:00] - Start of interview
[00:00:37] - What have the past few weeks looked like for you?
[00:01:28] - Were you able to do anything to prepare in the days leading up to it?
[00:02:18] - What made it chaotic? Can you describe that a little more?
[00:03:05] - When you were at work at Central, are there any particular images or sort of moments from that time period that really stand out to you as sort of what was coming?
[00:04:16] - I wonder if you can tell us a little bit your impressions of the public's attitude in those days leading up to the library's closure.
[00:05:42] - What does work look for you, right now?
[00:07:28] - What are some things that you are doing to keep yourself busy or occupied?
[00:08:08] - What are you playing, right now, if you don't mind my asking?
[00:8:34] - What are you reading right now?
[00:08:58] - What’s going on in your neighborhood, right now?
[00:09:48] - Have you been able to talk with neighbors and hear how other people are doing?
[00:10:17] - Do you see any opportunities or good things at the moment?
[00:11:29] - What are you finding is the best way for you to connect?
[00:11:58] - Are there any projects that are pandemic-related or pandemic-adjacent that you're working on?
[00:13:23] - Is there anything that we haven't talked about that you want to mention?
[START OF RECORDING]
Interviewer: My name is Laura Damon-Moore. I'm here today on Monday, April 20th, 2020, doing some recording for the Living History project and the ''Stories from a Distance'' collection during the COVID-19 pandemic here in Wisconsin. And we're going to have our narrator today introduce themselves now and explain their connection to Madison.
Phoenix Carter: I'm Phoenix Carter. I'm a Security Monitor at Central Library and I've lived in Madison for the past 21 (twenty one) years.
Interviewer: Awesome. Thank you, so much, Phoenix. Can you tell us what the past few weeks have looked like for you in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Safer at Home order?
Phoenix Carter: It's been a little chaotic. A little confusing. I've had to stay at home more, especially since I'm a little higher-risk due to health problems. So, it's been a lot of trying to figure out how to balance work. And then, what to do with the extra time that I would normally be either at work or out and about, working on some kind of like photography project or something like that. And with everyone kind of—I don't want to say freaking out but—a little panicky about the whole pandemic, it's been a little chaotic.
Interviewer: For sure. We've been in this, under this Safer at Home order for about four or five weeks now. Did—were you able to do anything in particular to prepare in like the days leading up to it? Or was it sort of an abrupt transition for you?
Phoenix Carter: We were—my roommate and I were able to prepare a little bit with groceries and things like that. I already—I'm a nurse's kid, so my mom is a nurse of 30 (thirty) years. So, I already had like hand sanitizer and gloves and masks and things like that in my apartment. So, I was really kind of already prepared, so to speak. I just didn't think that it would be as chaotic as it got.
Interviewer: Gotcha. Can you—what made it chaotic? You've used that word a couple of times. Can you describe that a little more?
Phoenix Carter: Just with everyone kind of on edge with the whole thing. Everyone kind of buying out supplies that people need because they think it's going to be more of like a martial law sort of thing, where you're not allowed to leave your house at all. And kind of World War III prep mentality. It—it's been really affecting my anxiety and kind of my peace of mind, as I'm sure it has with everyone. But, to me, it's a little bit more chaotic because I feel like I have no control and I don't like that.
Interviewer: For sure. Thank you. Thinking about the days like sort of ahead of when the library closed. When you were at work at Central, are there any particular images or sort of moments from that time period that really stand out to you as sort of what was coming?
Phoenix Carter: I think a lot of people being more aware of hygiene practices and being more overly obsessive about it was something that really kind of opened my eyes to how serious this—it was getting. Like, we had hand sanitizer, I don't know what they're called, cubicles I guess, stations at—on every floor of the library. And we had signs everywhere saying wash your hands and how to properly wash your hands. So, that kind of opened my eyes to how serious it was really getting and how much we really needed to prepare for what was coming.
Interviewer: For sure. What was your sense from other people—you know, as a monitor, you're walking around a lot, you're interacting with people, very much on the floor of the library. I wonder if you can tell us a little bit your impressions of the public's attitude in those days leading up to the library's closure.
Phoenix Carter: I think it was a lot of fear based on the unknown of people not really knowing what's going to happen. There was definitely a higher level of anxiety among our normal patrons. But also, among the homeless community, because we have a large homeless community at Central. And even though none of them, I never really heard any of them talking about it. Just walking by, there was kind of this sense—of what are we going to do if everything kind of crashes and burns? Since they don't necessarily have anywhere that they can go and they don't necessarily have a home that they can quarantine themselves in. They're just out in the open and exposed to everything. So, there was definitely a sense of more awareness of what was going on and a general sense of fear and uncertainty with the public.
Interviewer: Thanks. So, what are you—so you talked about having work be part of your—your day-to-day during this time. What does that—what does work look for you, right now?
Phoenix Carter: It's a lot of when—when I was working, I was working three jobs. So, I had a very busy schedule and work consumed pretty much every day of my time. And I didn't have a lot of extra free time at home. But I didn't mind that because I enjoyed it. Now, it's kind of I have a lot of quote-unquote extra free time because one of my jobs let me go because they completely shut down. And then, my other job is respite care, so I work with people with disabilities. And it's been a lot of, make sure you wear a mask when you're with a client. Make sure you're washing your hands a lot. When you come into the home, the parents of the client have a hand sanitizer set up and it has a sign that says Gel In. So, it's a lot of precautions when you come into the house.
And with the library, it's been a struggle up until recently for them to find work, especially for hourly people because our work is walking around making sure people are okay and obeying library standards. And we can't necessarily do that if there is no one in the library. So, it's been a struggle for I know my bosses to find stuff for us to do. But I personally have a solid project that's going really well. I just hope that my other coworkers and monitors have something that they can do, as well.
Interviewer: Sure. Thanks. So, as you are finding yourself with more free time at home, what are some things that you are doing to keep yourself busy or occupied?
Phoenix Carter: It's been a lot of catching up on things that I always say I'm going to do but never do, like, practicing my instruments more has been a big one. I've definitely been playing more on my keyboard and my guitar and my ukulele. I recently got an ocarina, which is like a wind-like instrument that I've been teaching myself how to play. And then, a lot of reading and a lot of video games.
Interviewer: Nice. What are you playing, right now, if you don't mind my asking?
Phoenix Carter: It has been an obsessive and unhealthy amount of Skyrim. And just recently, my roommate and I fell for the Animal Crossing trend and we have been obsessed with it. So, it's been a lot of that, as well.
Interviewer: It's an interesting mix.
Phoenix Carter: Yeah. Two opposite ends of the spectrum.
Interviewer: What are you reading right now?
Phoenix Carter: Right now, I am reading something called ''Assassin's Blade'', which is a kind of like teen fantasy book about the life of a 16-year-old assassin. And then, I'm also reading ''White Fragility'', which is interesting to me because I'm not really into nonfiction books, but it's something that was recommended to me, so I'm reading that.
Interviewer: Thanks. What is—if you look out your window—sort of on a day-to-day right now—what's going on in your neighborhood right now? What's it look like?
Phoenix Carter: Absolutely nothing. It has been so quiet, I have felt like it's kind of a ghost town outside. Usually, we have kids running around since I live in an apartment building and we have like a big grassy area above my window. So, usually, there's a bunch of kids running around and playing and screaming and the adults kind of hanging out on their patios and things like that. But that has not been happening at all. It's just been very eerily quiet, which I both enjoy, and I'm kind of disappointed because I want something to fill the void at this point.
Interviewer: For sure. Have you been able to talk with neighbors and things like that and hear how other people are doing? Or is it kind of everybody's off in their own space?
Phoenix Carter: Everyone's kind of off in their own thing. My neighbors, we're not the type of neighbors that we kind of talk to everybody that we walk by. So, it's been kind of like if someone's coming down the hallway, you scooch yourself to the edge of the wall and make sure you don't touch them until you get to your door, so.
Interviewer: For sure. Thanks. Yeah. What, do you see any opportunities or good things at the moment in the middle of this?
Phoenix Carter: I think that one of the good things that I've noticed is, as weird as it is, it's been an opportunity for me to kind of become closer to my family and my friends and like the clients that I work with because we're all kind of contained in a small area. And it's been a learning experience kind of really getting to know things that I didn't know about other people. And I'm really bad at staying connected with people. Even if you know, they could live right across from the hall from me and I'll just be really bad at connecting with them. But it's gotten a lot easier for me to connect and check up on other people, during this time. So, I guess communication, more communication from me to my friends and family has been a positive outcome of this.
Interviewer: For sure. What are you finding is like the best way for you to connect? Is it texting, video calls, like what's working for you right now?
Phoenix Carter: Definitely video calls. There are some phone calls because some people aren't comfortable or don't have the ability to video call. But video calls are definitely a big part of the connection, right now. Just because it's easy to see someone's face and see how they're actually doing and react to their emotions and things like that.
Interviewer: For sure. Thank you. Let's see. Is there anything—Oh, I was wondering about I know that you're involved with some, health advocacy work and things like that. Is there any—are there any projects that are maybe like pandemic-related or pandemic-adjacent that you're working on or what—what does that work look like for you, right now?
Phoenix Carter: I'm not working on anything currently, but the other people involved with the foundation I work for are really pushing to get online information. So, getting—which is something that we've been wanting to do for a long time, now—but it's really been pushed now that no one can really come into the office building. So, we're really trying to get all of our information online. We have a new website that we're putting up. We've been connecting through Zoom calls and just really working to get information out on the internet. So, that people have access to it without having to come into the physical office or call the physical office to get information for what they need. So, that's kind of the big thing that we've been working on. And we moved office buildings, so it's been a little crazy with trying to figure everything out. But it's slowly getting to where we want it to be at.
Interviewer: Interesting. Thank you, so much, for sharing. Is there anything that we haven't talked about that you want to mention today?
Phoenix Carter: I don't think so.
Interviewer: Awesome. Thank you, so much, Phoenix.
Phoenix Carter: Yeah. Thank you.
[END OF RECORDING]