Lockdown views: Eamonn Fitzgerald

Westside

"This pandemic hasn’t altered my daily life routines too much. It’s just harder to do my job. I still get up every day and go to work. I still deal with customers, but now at a social distance. I still look forward to my days off.

"I work as a manager in retail, and as I’m considered an ‘essential worker’, I didn’t get to go into lockdown. I am experiencing the other side of the panic buying – trying to keep the shelves stacked and answer the multiple requests for hand sanitisers, toilet paper, etc. Thankfully, the supply chain is quite robust and stayed working. March was the busiest month in grocery sales since records began, more than 10 per cent up on last Christmas. Toilet paper sales increased by 86 per cent, while soaps and hand sanitisers increased by 300 per cent. Certain foods quadrupled in the quantity sold.

"Images on social media of empty shelves actually caused much distress to the customers. In reality they were caused in most cases by the fact we couldn’t pack them fast enough. We were initially struggling to maintain social distance from the customers, and thankfully, due to the precautions we are now taking, the risk to health has been mimimised and our shelves packed again. So far, people have cooperated with the queueing systems, and they understand the hard work we do. Keeping the shelves packed has kept me very stressed and busy.

"The positives [of the lockdown] have been the lack of traffic. It is weird driving into work or taking the bus. Galway without traffic reminds me of what the town used to be like when I was much younger. My commute times are a fraction of what they used to be.

"Another positive is that people are looking out for each other more now. I’m glad to see people are going back to preparing meals from scratch. At work we have seen a huge increase in people buying fresh food. People are checking up on their ‘cocooned’ neighbours and treating ‘essential staff’ with incredible respect. Outside work, I’m spending more time in my Manshed. It is a place of solitude where I can digest what’s going on around me and attempt to destress. In my Manshed, I make things and I think about things – I came up with a design for a wooden desk, and sometime this week, I’ll make it as the children have taken over the kitchen table.

"One major negative has been the amount of discarded gloves and masks on the streets. People should bring their used PPE home and dispose of it safely. Quite a few customers have complained to me while they were shopping about how difficult it is for them to be at home. Most of them are on the furniture re-arranging phase of their lockdown. Alcohol sales are through the roof. On the really busy days, I think I’d love to be at home too but I have work to do. Also I’m concerned about the amount of people that go out and take photos and post on social media pictures of other people that are out – it’s like going on holidays and complaining about the other tourists.

"Philosophically, I’m thinking about while everybody rushes towards returning to business as usual, I really want to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to. We seem to spend all our days running from task to task without taking any time to process what’s going on in our heads or around us. I’m hoping we will spend a bit more time looking after our family and each other. I haven’t had much time to be Zooming, crafting, squatting, running, or baking bread. I’m looking forward to being more grounded and less stressed. Also, I’d love a pint.

"I draw inspiration from Derek Mahon’s poem:

Everything is going to be all right

How should I not be glad to contemplate

the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window

and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?

There will be dying, there will be dying,

but there is no need to go into that.

The poems flow from the hand unbidden

and the hidden source is the watchful heart.

The sun rises in spite of everything

and the far cities are beautiful and bright.

I lie here in a riot of sunlight

watching the day break and the clouds flying.

Everything is going to be all right."

 

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