The wheel of fortune has turned, and as the Covid 19 pandemic spreads, Mika and I watch the chaos unfold around us. The pandemic is bad enough in its own right–just as the flu takes a terrible toll every year–the Covid 19 virus will take a dreadful toll before it runs its course. So far, we are making the best of staying home–we are naturally reclusive, we keep to ourselves at the best of times. It is unlikely that we will be exposed to the deadly virus. We are working from home–Mika works for the federal government at Statistics Canada, and I work in the MacOdrum Library at Carleton University. For the time being, we are drawing our salary and benefits–we accept that we are fortunate. Beyond that, our house is paid for, and we are out of debt and Mika informed me that we have enough in savings to sustain us for a while should one or both of us get laid off.
What concerns us the most is the economic upheaval that will result from the quarantine currently in place. We are among those fortunate enough to have our jobs and full salaries still–for the time being. We are in a comfortable position because of a blend of our efforts and good fortune. Both Mika and I experienced hardship in our lives. I did not land my full-time job at Carleton University until I turned thirty-nine. In the years before I started working at Carleton, I went through tough times. I struggled to get by on temp work and contract jobs–often in return for bum’s wages. I experienced long bouts of unemployment and went on social assistance when I was between jobs. I underwent personal bankruptcy over the Canada Student Loans I had no hope of repaying. Trust me, I tried to repay them, but given my spotted employment record in my thirties, the situation was hopeless. I never gave up. I applied myself during bouts of unemployment, working voluntarily in libraries to keep up my skills as a librarian.
Mika is hearing impaired. He has partial hearing only in his right ear. He was born this way and grew up with this disability. It did not stop him from excelling in school. He went to Queen’s University on an academic scholarship, where he studied mathematics and computer science. He works for Statistics Canada as a programmer. Yes, he applied himself to overcome his disability and had the good fortune to land a full-time job with the federal government shortly after he graduated from Queen’s in 1996. Mika is savvy at financial management too. It is his skill at managing money that ensured our prosperity as a couple. It is his skill and discipline in financial management–he is no spendthrift–that will get us through the crisis.
In our isolation, we have not lost track of the gravity of the situation. On a personal level, we have friends who fear that the loss of employment could lead to the loss of their home. Mika and I increased the wages for an acquaintance we employ to clean our house. We offered him a hand up, and he happily accepted. He was laid off from his day job and is waiting for his Employment Insurance benefits to kick in. Yes, the federal government instituted a guaranteed income for workers–seventy-five percent of their wages and salaries–and bailouts for small business owners who are forced to close for the duration of the crisis. It is like we are passengers on the RMS Titanic. The ship is sinking, and though there are not enough boats for all the passengers, the federal government has at least thrown out a lifeline to offer as many people as possible a chance to survive.
Mika and I are fortunate. We have each other and lots for which to be thankful. We kept the wolf from the door throughout our lives through a combination of our efforts and good fortune. It is distressing to think that the Covid 19 pandemic and the economic crisis it spawned could spell a drastic reversal of fortune for us. However, as I wrote in an essay I published last year: “The wolf is always at the door and you never know what fortune will bring but rather than despairing I accept I am still among the living and intend to live my life to the fullest.” Mika and I will keep our friends and families in our thoughts as we weather the storm. We hope that the current crisis is resolved with as little hardship as possible to everyone across the world.
Posted by Geoffrey and Mika