Carol Caronna, Towson University, writing from Columbia, MD
I go to the grocery store to stock up, not knowing when I’ll make it back. I notice what’s sold out—saltines, Campbell’s soup, Heinz ketchup. I think about what would happen if I lose my husband or my parents. I start to cry by the full shelf of store-brand ketchup. No one sees me because no one is there.
I attend my first Webex meeting, a big one with higher-ups and people I don’t know. As I’m struggling to acclimate, someone asks “who is sharing their screen?” Five people chorus, “Carol Caronna!” I have no idea what they are talking about or how to fix it. I want to “Leave Meeting” but I can’t find the button. I haven’t felt this unsure of myself at work in years.
My mother says she’s going to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. I tell her to get it delivered, not realizing I will spend the next two hours helping her set up the CVS app. Later I try to convince my dad not to take his car in for an alignment. I find myself yelling, “you’re 78 years old with preexisting conditions, do you think you’re going to get a ventilator?” No, but he doesn’t want the bad alignment to ruin his tires. I restrain myself from shouting: YOU’RE NOT EVEN USING THE CAR.
For hours at a stretch I sit at the computer in my pajamas, feeling isolated and alone. (Well, my husband is teleworking too.) I lose focus (because he talks to me every time he walks by), and debate if I should force myself to work or take a break. A stray thought starts to nag: you’ve been here before. I look around my home office—old posters on the walls, old bed in the corner—and realize with dread: the year is 1999 and I’m writing my dissertation. My husband brings me back to 2020 with a thud: “you really need to take a shower.”
My Work and Occupations course unit on Contemporary Issues coincides with remote teaching. The gig economy, the Great Recession, the unemployed and the underemployed—should I capitalize on the timeliness, or try to make it seem less poignant? Should I push the students to connect sociology and their lives, or is this material too raw? I want to reassure them that things will be okay. I’m not sure how.