The idea of not working for several months and staying home with family sounds like every working-class member’s dream. Until most people realized that they would be laid off without pay or any benefits to keep afloat for however many months the quarantine lasts. Many made rough day- to- day decisions and continued to work during this pandemic.
I broke quarantine myself, which I will say is not recommended. While I was riding back home in my Lyft after work, it was quiet at first, until a new video about the Coronavirus played loud on my phone. The video commented on people still being outside and ignoring state orders. My driver decided to randomly speak to me, which is one of my biggest pet peeves, but I decided to listen since what he was saying was interesting.
Wahid Bilal is a sixty-two year old Lyft driver with COPD, making him a high risk to contract the Coronavirus. So, I asked him why he decided to work instead of staying home: “You try to hide from it, but one day you may have to have it like the flu. There’s no way to get away from that. Do you really think if we stay home for a month it’ll just go away?”
Of course, many people know that staying home for one month and expecting a cure to magically pop up isn’t reality. I decided to push his thoughts more by asking him: “They said a cure can take up to eighteen months, but quarantine can last up to three. Being a part of the working class, what’s your take on those statements?” He stopped at the stop light and took the deepest breath of all time and replied: “Imagine staying home for a year, at minimum three months. The real working class can’t survive three months without pay. People have been laid off and some aren’t receiving any benefits to last during this pandemic. Without us how will our economy survive?”
After his comment I mentioned the stimulus bill that was passed two weeks ago. This bill was intended to aid Americans during this pandemic but Wahid, like many others, wasn’t satisfied. “That stimulus bill doesn’t even cover half of American’s needs. What is $1200 going to do? For many of us that’s one-month worth of rent alone. You can’t buy food and necessary supplies because there will be nothing left after the rent is paid. That bill is just the government wanting us to shut up for a second.”
He continued to express how the bill didn’t sit right with him. “You know who I really feel bad for, college students. You guys were excluded from that bill. If you’re over seventeen your parents won’t receive any funds for you, if you don’t make a certain amount in taxes then you won’t receive anything. So basically, half of America won’t receive anything. The bill is bullshit.”
Being a college student, I understood what he was saying but the loopholes in the stimulus bill wasn’t a surprise to me. As a Lyft driver, I asked him if he considered himself an essential worker and he replied, “No, but me continuing to work is essential to keeping my family fed.”
Realizing that he was set on working I had to ask him one last question before my ride was over. I wanted to know what he thought it would take for people to really stay home.
“They need to take care of us the way we take care of the economy. They need to make sure all Americans are financially stable, without any barriers. Then maybe people will listen. The system is so screwed the people are worried about making ends meet, not surviving a pandemic, sadly. The government can’t even keep a straight story. I don’t believe in the government, so I would rather work and believe in stability.”