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Some in our society have to keep showing up every day during our health/economic crisis, while others work from home and others not at all

MIKEL KELLYWhat's better — having an "essential" job or not having one at all?

You need to ask yourself in this age of "stay home and stay healthy": Would you rather be out there in the scary world doing an "essential" job, or be relatively safe at home but not sure how long you might be able to feed your loved ones?

There certainly are a lot of people out there jeopardizing their own health and safety, and I'm not only thinking of front-line health care workers in hospitals and doctors' offices.

The other morning the other person who lives at our house, I and my cousin who is even older than me (10 years, but who's counting?) went to the special "geezer hour" at Winco, which opened at 6 a.m. for us oldtimers. We got there just a few minutes before 6, but the line already ran the length of the shopping center, due to the fact that everybody was keeping a safe, 6-foot distance between each other. It was about as long as the Aladdin Theater line when somebody good is playing there (Lucinda Williams or Jake Shimabukaru) and the people snake all the way around the piano store corner.

The Winco store was orderly, and people were mostly being quite civil — but, whoa, talk about a bunch of super serious shoppers. No small talk or smiles, just sidelong glances at people, as if to say, "Hold 'er right there, Bub, ya don't need to get any closer to my toilet paper!"

And then we got to the checkouts (after a pretty decent wait, of course), and those poor checkers seemed, well, shell-shocked. I'm guessing most of these folks did not spend any time in medical school and had no idea when they took their job that they might someday be risking their health just by putting on that company T-shirt.

But it got me to thinking how many jobs there are like that. Oh, sure, everybody's favorite, the first responders, are famous for always running TOWARD the danger — but firefighters and police officers and EMTs DID sign up for that kind of peril.

But taxi drivers? I don't think so. Same with delivery people, gas pumpers, bank tellers, the guy at the parts store counter and so many other workers who find themselves wondering now if the next customer they encounter may be the one who could make them sick.

And, while we're on this topic, let's not forget about the folks who keep your mainstream news media going. Reporters and editors, broadcasters, producers — all the ones who strongly believe that the flow of information is truly essential to keeping a nation informed — most of these people did not enter this field to get rich, and no matter how misinterpreted their work may be by some out there (even in high office), they do it with only the most noble of intentions.

And, by members of the news media, I most definitely do not mean those affiliated with social media, which does not require any special training, education or even common sense.

So, I go back to my original question: What's better, to have a job (and at least a semblance of financial security) or to be safe at home but not be sure how long the money will hold out?

My own personal observation is that I have it about as good as it could be. Retired, with a "fixed income," I only have to venture out occasionally. Many of my needs can be met in the privacy of my own home, which puts me in the rarified company of such "essential" employees as IT workers and 30-year-old dudes holed up in their moms' basements writing their blogs.

OK, it's true that, like some of them, I don't really like people, either. But that's just a quirk about me that I've spent a lifetime trying to overcome.

A former Pamplin Media Group editor/writer, Mikel Kelly has branched out considerably from his old hobby of just yelling at people to get off his lawn to writing occasional items for the newspaper, helping around the house and, of course, continuing to mow his precious lawn.


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