Curing boba cravings during COVID-19

Five days out of the week, I arrive home sticky from syrups and exhausted from my seven-hour shift at a popular boba lounge. My roommates greet me with sanitizer spray and a sentiment shared among millions: “We’re bored!” they shout. I wish I was, too.

My days are jam-packed, beginning with mandatory class lectures via Zoom. Once the session expires I have 15 minutes to get to work. From 2 p.m to 9 p.m., I work hard managing the endless cycle of orders, cleaning and keeping customers satisfied.

The two days I’m not scheduled to work are devoted to my 10 a.m to 5 p.m. unpaid internship. I spend my “free time” struggling to catch up on assignments that were due a week ago, snapping myself out of mental breakdowns and taking naps that leave much to be desired.

I’m burned out. Being bored sounds amazing right now.

While COVID-19 has forced people across the United States to stay at home and nonessential businesses to close operations, restaurants fall into the “essential” category and can remain open as long as they switch exclusively to take-out and delivery options.

Since qualifying to operate, the boba I serve has been in high demand. My internship tasks as a publicist assistant have remained consistent and my workload as a graduating senior is infinite. I’ve never worked harder.

Like other “essential” workers during this pandemic, I am faced with the decision to either work and risk my health and safety, or stay home and lose essential income.

Considering over 10 million Americans have filed unemployment claims since the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, I feel a sense of privilege that I even get a choice.

For me, the choice is obvious. I am not a part of the populations most vulnerable to the virus and neither are the other students I live with. My employers have taken cautionary measures so I feel safe going into and leaving work. Continuing to work was a no-brainer if I wanted to continue paying my rent and supporting myself financially.

However, I’m aware that while this was an easy decision for me to make, it does not reflect the millions of other low-wage, “essential” workers who are truly on the frontlines of the pandemic, who come in direct contact with the masses while living with their families, and whose employers are not reacting as well as mine have to the coronavirus concerns.

Initially, I felt slightly resentful that my store’s operations would continue and that choosing not to work would mean waving goodbye to my paycheck, but small business owners are not to blame. They are also victims of this crisis. Closing operations while simultaneously providing employees with paid time off would not be financially viable for the business I’m employed at.

The ways the management team has responded to the virus makes working for them during this time far more bearable. They’ve taken the pandemic seriously, implementing further health and safety procedures. The public is not allowed to step foot in our stores, cleaning protocols have been updated, store operating hours have been reduced, masks and gloves are provided and wearing them at all times is enforced.

They have supported workers how they can through curating plentiful grocery care packages for every employee and providing workers with generous free meals sourced from the seafood joint they also operate two doors down. Unlike many other corporations, they have proven they care about the people who work for them.

I’m grateful for the resources I have to survive this unprecedented period in history, but I can’t deny feeling slightly jealous of all the self-declared “bored.”
According to health and wellness site, geotagged Twitter data revealed over 2 million tweets involving complaints and hashtags about boredom or being bored due to social distancing, self-isolation and business closures since March 1 in the United States. California ranked fourth in the top states complaining about boredom.

My roommates and the majority of my friends work for nonessential businesses who are temporarily closed but are compensating employees with paid time off. They are bored and I wish I could join them on their staycation.

COVID-19 has created time for millions of people to sleep in, binge-watch entire seasons, spend time with their families, learn new recipes, declutter their homes or learn the latest Tik Tok choreography.

As an employee, intern and full-time student during this pandemic, I struggle to find time to breathe and take care of myself. I feel irritable, malnourished and extra alone as I push through completing my responsibilities while trying to not get distracted by my restless roommates. COVID-19 has stripped them of a schedule and stripped me of energy and time to spend with them. While they’re up until the sun rises laughing, cooking and playing Grand Theft Auto, I’m in my room drowning in work and fatigue.

For many whose workplaces remain operating, workloads have only increased and become more difficult to endure. Feeling overwhelmed with work and unable to relate to the millions on staycation during this pandemic places me into a different realm of self-isolation. I’m a boba-barista. I can’t imagine how health care workers, delivery drivers, grocery store workers and everyone else working tirelessly at the real epicenters of the battlefield are holding up right now.

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