#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 58
Inspired by NaNoWriMo prompt to keep a diary of our days of social distancing, I am beginning my own. Writing has always been an important part of my life in times of change, stress, and pain. Words help me make sense of what is happening and how I’m reacting to events unfolding around me. This will never be my best writing, but it is something I want to share regardless. I may change my mind later and delete it all.
The idea of a collection of daily words describing how you felt for 30 days of social distancing and isolation feels really meaningful to me and something that I think I’d really appreciate having in 10 years. Think outside the box of what you might typically write!— NaNoWriMo (@NaNoWriMo) March 31, 2020
My hand grabs one of my work polo shirts resting on top of my chest of drawer. They never go in or hang above with the shirts and trousers. Instead, they rest in a messy pile between the bottom of my shirts and the top of the chest of drawer. In ordinary time, I go through them too fast to bother tidying them properly.
I shake it open and hang it in front of me for a second. I slide it over my head. I remember the fabric against my skin, rough and synthetic, not like the cotton t-shirts I have been wearing since the beginning of lockdown. I remember sweating under the black fabric, the material not soaking any of it away from my body.
I close the wardrobe and stare at my reflection in the mirror door. Here I am. In my uniform.
I have never worn a uniform prior to working in this role. Growing up in France, I could wear whatever clothes I wanted in school and when I began working, none of my employers required a particular set of clothes for the job. But in this one, they do. This polo shirt and black trousers. I rarely wear the ones provided for us. The waistline is too low making the trousers impractical for any jobs in the warehouse.
I observe my hair. The sides are shaved, hair left only at the top growing wild. I do not recognise the combination of this haircut with this shirt. Since cutting my hair, I have periodically wondered what my colleagues would think. I don’t much care for their opinion but there are unspoken rules for those of us, like me, who have to face the public. There is a certain appearance that is expected of us and this is not what it is. I can blame the lockdown for a while I know, turn it into a joke with customers, relax them and sell them more items they don’t need for more money than I can understand. But I like this haircut and have no intention of letting my hair grow back to what it was. What happens then? I do not know. Maybe I’m imagining things, maybe this is fine.
I lower my glance to the logo. White against the black of the shirt. I whisper the name. I have not done any work for over two months. I have been expressly forbidden to if I want to get my furlough pay, and I do want it. So I haven’t worked, not even on the sly. I have not even thought of work much, not in term of the actual role that I do. I remember my password, the one that matters and unlocks all the other ones. I remember my folders and the logic behind them. I remember the pathways through our internal software to get the answers I need. I remember my desk with the photo booth attached to it. I remember my colleagues, three of them beginning less than a month before the coronavirus hit the UK shores. I remember the staff room, overheated, noisy, and generally unpleasant. I remember the dirt of the warehouse. I remember the wobbling rail we use to repair some products, too small for the widest we sell. I remember our regular customers and their quirks. I remember the onslaught of summer, customers yelling down our ears, blaming us for everything that went wrong in their holidays. I remember the anger at managers that appear not to listen to our plea for change because this is not working. I remember, but those images and feelings are of the past, detached from my new daily concerns.
I take the shirt off and shove it back above the chest of drawer. I am unsure why I put it on today. Maybe I wanted to reconnect to work, to a reality I will have to return to sooner rather than later, but it failed. This shirt, once over my body, is my marker for change. When I wear it, I am not me. I am employee number X. When I take off, I shed that number and become a person again. Nothing changed when I slid it over my shoulders today. I remained me, entirely me, wearing an out of character polo shirt.