Guest post by Jonna Huseman

What is your profession/involvement in the community? 
I’m a letter carrier—18 years in the game carrying mail.

How has your life changed since the community has been impacted by Coronavirus?
I’m still employed, still making money, but I’m working a lot of overtime. There’s also so much distancing and being alone. People used to be close like family, but not anymore.

There was a funeral for my nephew, who was 21, yesterday. I couldn’t even go in. I had to watch it on my phone. It was really sad. It was senseless for him to die during this pandemic—and for a dirt bike. There are so many people out there just crying and mad, and his mother just kept passing out. We couldn’t even be there together for her because of social distancing.

Are you working more or less?
I’m working more. I’m working every day.

Being on the front line, we should be getting hazard pay.

What people don’t realize is FedEx, UPS, Amazon—they’re bringing their packages to us, so in some ways we have more volume now. My usual shift takes 7 hours and 45 minutes. But it’s longer now because of social distancing. We only have 45 minutes to pick up our mail at distribution before we head out on our routes. That doesn’t give us enough time to get everything, so we often have to come back and get the packages that weren’t ready the first time. That also means the streets you’ve been over you might have to go over again, so sometimes it feels like double the work.

I love my job and I love my route and everyone on it. I’d rather deliver mail in residential areas because I’m more connected with the people. I don’t like doing businesses and business routes because they might be closed or they might move.

What are you most afraid of?
Losing a family member to this pandemic, old or young. As long as you take your vitamins and drink warm tea with lemon, use Lysol and wear your mask and gloves, and you should be okay.

What are you most hopeful for?
I’ll be glad when this is over. But I’ll probably still wear my mask. It’s almost like a post-apocalyptic dream. It’s getting to that point, anyway.

What has been the most challenging part of this experience for you?
I really can’t say it’s a challenge. There’s just a different way we do things. You just have to adapt—adapt to change.

Is there anything—even a tiny thing—you enjoy or like about sheltering in place?
Everything is the same to me. It’s just work. I just like being out and about, and being my own man while I’m on delivery. Especially when the kids see me—you gotta smile. They see me and say hey Mr. Ricky! I’ve watched kids grow up on my route. I’ve been on my route since I’ve been in the post office.

What do you think society as a whole will learn from this experience?
It’s hard to say. People are people. You have to change yourself if you want to change society. Self-preservation is the best teacher. If you aren’t willing to change yourself, society is never going to change.

How are you coping with stress/taking care of yourself?
I get up. I take my vitamins. I drink my tea. That’s the first thing I do. Then I prepare myself for work. I make sure I keep a can of Lysol with me at all times. I don’t spray just to spray—I spray when I need to.

When future generations ask, what will you tell them about this time in your life?
It’s just different. This is more like a curve ball. The pandemic started in February and Trump just ignored it. I thought man, all this fool cares about is some votes?

That’s the crazy part—if this guy gets reelected, we’re really gonna be in trouble. Trump is a real estate celebrity con man who conned his way into office and he doesn’t know a damn thing about politics. Then someone tells on him and he fires them. All he wants is “yes” men. Ever since he got impeached, it gave him super powers to do more dumb shit.

I need serenity right now cause it isn’t happening here. It’s like we’re living in a panic, but without panicking. This is only the first wave—we’ll probably get a second strain of this corona. Right now, no one can afford to get sick, have accidents, or injuries. You go to the hospital and end up with the virus all because you needed some stitches. Healthcare is failing in the U.S., the only thing that matters in this world is money. You need to survive. Money isn’t everything, but you can’t do anything without it.

What would you like your friends and neighbors in Silver Spring/Montgomery County to know?
Keep your family close. Tell them you love them every day, and just look out for each other.

Jonna Huseman is a family photographer who serves Silver Spring and beyond. During the COVID-19 crisis, she is using her free time to document the lives of friends and neighbors living through the pandemic.

Author’s note: Over the coming days and weeks I am documenting the lives of dozens of members of the Silver Spring and Takoma Park community. My goal is to talk to teachers and students, religious leaders, small business owners, frontline workers, parents, elected leaders, and private citizens. I want to learn about our collective hopes and dreams, our biggest challenges, and our greatest triumphs. Mostly, I want to build connection and create community at a time when we need it the most. 

Life in the Time of the Coronavirus: Voices from Silver Spring—Ricky Speight