To coffee or not to coffee

To coffee or not to coffee

Fade in
Drab and overcast Sunday afternoon, gardening outlet store parking lot, with oliebollen (Dutch New Year’s Eve delicacy) vendor, while gardening outlet is shut down because of a lockdown, that went into effect earlier that morning.
Cut to next scene; an online forum
Person 1: bought a few oliebollen, and shared the news of them being available.
Person 2: “Nope, won’t go there, they won’t get my support. The gardening outlet store denied me a cup of coffee because I could not show them a QR code.”
(note: that QR code would show said person’s qualifying vaccination, test, or recovery status)

And here we go again!

“But I want this! And I want it now! Why? Because I want it!”
Acting that way, and casually throwing any remnant of solidarity and long-term thinking out the window, is why we keep on ending up in this seemingly endless cycle of lockdown, re-opening, lockdown, et cetera. Because personal short-term gratification and pleasure and comfort is valued higher than general long term well-being.

Since early 2020, but probably before that already, albeit in a less polarising and fashion, “I want this, and I want it now!” has become synonymous with “freedom and liberty”, with the logical inference dictating that “no, you can’t do this right now” equals “denying me my liberty and freedom.”

And that’s where things get really uncomfortable and untenable.

It’s got remarkably little to do with freedom or even liberty, and all the more with unfettered hedonism, narcissism, and egoism. With petulant children, you’d expect that kind of reasoning and logic, as they don’t fully distinguish between short and long term gratification, or even the difference between wants and needs. Not with socialised and integrated adults.

Yes, I am personally disappointed and upset that for the umpteenth time, we’re being told: “sorry, we have to shut down again; the remaining shows will be cancelled.”

Since late May of 2021, I was finally allowed and able to get back to work again. Things (concerts, performances, and events in front of audiences) were starting up again.

And yes, then it really rubs me the wrong way to see someone blast a store for denying them a cup of coffee because of not being able or willing to present a QR code.

Really!?!? Couldn’t you take that cup of coffee prior to or after going shopping at a gardening outlet store?!?! Even just the fact that you find it absolutely normal that you can sit down to get a cup of coffee in said store is bizarre and preposterous!!!

And because of “your” (in the broader, indefinite form) egoism and habitual expectations, I – once again – am out of work (and potentially out of a future. Again).

Between March 10th of 2020 and May 22nd of 2021, I have been able/allowed to work a grand total of 3 (!!!) days, instead of the roughly 300 I had scheduled.

I happen to be self-employed in the live music industry; which was the first to close down, and the last to re-open. Between March 10th and April 15th, all the work I had planned between March 20th and fall of 2022 got surgically removed from my calendar, as if it was a cancerous tumour that had to be removed. All I was left with was a bunch of question marks and financial uncertainty.

“Just change your career, learn to think inside of the box again, and apply for a normal job like the rest of us.” That was part of many a government campaign across the world, in trying to get & keep the self-employed off of government hand-outs (if they even qualified for those hand-outs).

Anyway, it was much easier said than done. And showed the inert disdain the governments of the world have for the self-employed in general, and for those in the cultural and entertainment industries in particular.

Just like that career ballet dancer can’t just hang her pointes in the willows and give up her dream and start working in retail or services (she’d have no – even remotely – relevant work or education history), I couldn’t get hired either. And believe me, I tried.

Too old, too expensive, too used to being my own boss (running on 21 years of being self-employed), over-skilled yet under-documented, and because it’s crystal clear to all that I’d get back to my ‘old’ job (on stage) as soon as I’d be able to, I am highly unemployable.

And add to that me being transgender, and – this was said in multiple job interviews – having been called “spicy” (which was – explained to me later – code for “you’re very confident and not submissive, so we don’t think you could work ‘under’ someone”), made me even less hireable.

As of May 23rd of this year, I have been able to get back to work; and I pick up every shift I could, whether it was dragging steel and decks all the way up to the football stadium’s 2nd ring rafters, placing and fixing thousands of chairs in an indoor arena for an event. Luckily, I also managed to do a few handfuls of shows between “my” three main bands; doing the actual work I am specialised in.

How do I work nowadays, you wonder?

– Multiple DIY tests, and at least one PCR test a week.
– Face mask, regardless of level of physical exertion, shift length, and temperature. That mask only comes off during food and drink breaks. Travelling by public transport extends the mask-wearing time some more. Most days that would be well over 10 hours of mask-wearing.
– Double-dose vaccinated, and currently waiting to be called for booster shot.

Did I choose or even like doing all these things to be able to get back to work? No, not really. Really not!

But, I know this is the way it’s going to have to be for a while longer, and I know that in the industry I love working in, this is basically going to have to persist for even longer than it will for “you” (again in the broader, indefinite form).

I am masked-up, tested, and vaccinated, so you can remain safe, so that you can be entertained. Remember that very well, when you get irate at  someone asking you to mask up or show proof of being vaccinated, tested, or recovery.

I do that, so that you can go enjoy seeing that performance or show for a few hours that one evening, so you can let off some steam, drift away in the illusion of entertainment.

Possibly you’ll need to remain seated, can’t keep getting up and down to get drinks, or dance freely. Maybe you’ll need to show a QR code, or even wear a mask. For you that is a temporary and possibly unenjoyable state as it prevents the illusion of freedom from being as overwhleming as you’d want it to be; for me it is a near-permanent one.

That is, I could technically probably forego the masking up, and my employer can not force me to test or get jabbed, but I do know that I any single one of “us” gets ill, any seemingly insignificant little cogwheel in the works, the whole machine comes to a halt. With far-reaching consequences for all behind the scenes.

And for you, in the audience; because you won’t see the show, because we had to cancel.

Are my freedom and liberty being curbed, limited, or removed in any way? No!

Do I feel limited or restrained by any of that? No!

I am glad and happy that I am allowed to work again in the industry that I love, where I belong, and where I excel and shine, and where I do what makes me happy. Part of that joy I feel is the applause I hear (even if it’s usually not directed at me personally, but I am an indispensable part of the show nevertheless) at the end of the performance.

The show must go on!

And we make sure it will!

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