Life During quarantine #10: Essential Workers

We have discussed so many things like schools, politics, restaurants, and technology all affected by the pandemic. Going back to work after 2 months at home was a welcome choice. It’s hot, it’s hectic, wearing a mask with glasses while talking to customers and going to their homes running around to get things done. It’s a bit hard on the system, today my car was 104 degrees after a house design call, then I drove to work for an hour and slowly the temperature went to 85 as I approached the office. I saw many workers on route, and I decided to continue a story that I wrote a few days ago. It happened while I was being an essential worker years ago. Thinking about this I even asked for friends lists of who to thank during Covid-19.

My story:

I was eating tri-color tortellini and tomato sauce I made from scratch. It made me ponder our most unsung heroes, our essential workers. Tortellini you say. Let me share a scene in my life from the late 1990s. I was employed as a chef in the tourist trade on the island of Rhodes. After a job search in Athens instead of a one-month gig on the island of Pythagoras, Samos, I took the one that was a 6-month contract. That place had gone through 40+ staff in the past 6 months. From not getting paid to not being fed and working 12-16 hr. shifts in a 100+ degree weather without air-conditioning, and a full menu to cook from scratch every day. I managed to make three months and found another restaurant job from some island friends. One of the most popular restaurants in Lindos, I got a trial run as a chef, which included a room in a mosaic floor villa with some Albanian workers I had never met.

I had a conversation with a passenger who said that they owned the island including the police and would hold my passport the whole season if I stayed. I am glad I trusted my instincts.

I arrived for my shift and happily cooked at my station at the fryolator: 80lbs French fries, 30 lbs. of calamari, and an occasional pasta or fish dish.  I had to scale a fish in a sink that was about 6 inches wide, I did successfully but walked to the other side of the kitchen to wash my hands. The manager asked where are you going? I pointed to my hands and in Greek, he says don’t worry just make me a salad. The other chef showed up for work, proceeded to change his clothes in the kitchen. I went to get something from the depths of the refrigerator which was dark and scary. They offered me dinner I ate some of the tri-color tortellini as I had just made a batch. The owner at the shifts end offered me a drink and discussed if I came back next season, I could have a house and a car, and he winked at me. I was tired I went home and thought about how that all sounded. My hours working $ + free food and lodging. I left the key with the hostess and a note and got on a bus to the city. I had a conversation with a passenger who said that they owned the island including the police and would hold my passport the whole season if I stayed. I am glad I trusted my instincts.

Since that time in transition, I have done many service jobs in coffee shops and restaurants and cleaning.  I have bussed tables and that was because when I arrived in San Diego from Greece no one believed me I had a degree and it took time to establish an address. I call that foreigner in my own country. It made me appreciate all of humanity more. I am most likely to get my hands dirty and help instead of ordering someone else around. I am grateful for the glimpse into service jobs as it not only makes me appreciate teamwork more than ever and be as kind to our service workers. Valentine’s day and Christmas holidays, I have been known to hand out Hershey kisses to essential workers.

This is something I was shocked to hear today while driving about the most essential workers: those angels in healthcare.

So many have given so much without a hint of recognition of thanks! So here are some of the many I want to thank. “In some states workers supporting religious organizations and churches are considered essential, while in some other workers who support the cannabis industry receive the essential designation. Between the federal guidelines and state essential worker orders, several major sectors overlap including, but not limited to:

  • Energy
  • Childcare
  • Water and wastewater.
  • Agriculture and food production.
  • Critical retail (i.e. grocery stores, hardware stores, mechanics).
  • Critical trades (construction workers, electricians, plumbers, etc.).
  • Transportation

The energy sector’s services have become so fundamental to modern life that their suspension or disruption has the potential to threaten the health and livelihood of most individuals. These systems include:

  • The electric grid, including power plants, distribution and transmission systems, reliability and control room operations and nuclear facilities.
  • The natural gas network, including processing plants, pipelines and compressor stations, distribution and transmission systems, reliability and control room operations, and liquefied natural gas facilities.
  • The petroleum and fuel production industry, including oil and gas drilling, production, refining, transport, and distribution to gas stations and industrial facilities.

These are some responses I received.

  • Programs that keep us engaged: The Quarantine Network, The Virus Social Distance Group, and The Quarantine Kitchen
  • Mail/UPS/FedEx
  • Uber/Lyft for bringing people to appointments
  • Grubhub/Amazon-Whole Foods Delivery/InstaCart/PeaPod/ect for delivering groceries & food
  • Mental health workers.
  • Postal workers (UPS, FedEx, etc.)  My mom is a hard-working mail carrier and has not had ANY time off… every day is basically a Christmas/holiday number of packages. I’m annoyed that I haven’t seen people making as much of a to-do about it. She’s doing the work of three people every day!
  • Waiters and waitresses
  • Costco employees
  • Foodbank employees and volunteers
  • Animal shelter employees and volunteers

Say Thank You

The simplest way to thank someone is also the easiest way – just say thank you. When you encounter a service provider, express your appreciation. Be kind and ask how they are holding up. Not only are they dealing with their own worries and frustrations, they have to face the worry, frustration, and anger of the people they are serving. That’s a lot to handle. Let them know you are grateful for their dedication and sacrifices. Please reach out if you have any ideas. Be well and safe!


Cynthia Kosciuczyk, MBA
Cynthia Kosciuczyk, MBA
I took the less-traveled roads which led to many careers. Each of these contributed to my unique mix of expertise: science research, teaching, food, art, and textiles. Owning and operating my own businesses (a bakery, a gallery, and a consulting business) thrust me into the driver seat of learning many diverse roles from customer service to public relations and resulted in my unique management style. Participating in the creation of startups, working in design, and my own businesses and technology endeavors. My quest for knowledge and seeking out the best has turned me into a networking enthusiast. A lifelong passion for textiles and Persian rugs taught me an array of professional skills such as research, writing, and community events. Networking resulted in a multitude of business opportunities. My experiences include Management, Entrepreneurship, Sales, Design, Descriptive Writing, Business Strategy, Color, and Textiles. Every facet of my work and life comes together like pieces of a puzzle. I strive to be a phenomenal networker and problem solver who continues to learn and grow.

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  1. Hi Cyntia,
    I read your story this Sunday morning, it kept me thinking, even living in a another continent (I live in the Netherlands, Europe) how we as human beings are having the same thoughts about covid19? I really liked your essay, it is very real to our daily life. In your essay you mention the people who kept going on “…without a hint of recognition of thanks!”
    I had the same talk here, about the lock-down. Asking people for more understanding, because of those people our economy still was running, they choose Humanity. They didn’t called in that they are sick, can’t come to work. etc.
    Thank you for this great share.