What follows is one of those long rambly over-thinky work posts. I will probably, next week, edit it down a little and post it over on my work blog, so think of this as the… rough draft?
Since all this started a few weeks ago, all the talk about Covid-19 and social distancing and essential businesses and who should be open or closed and what safety precautions should be taken at work, I’ve been struggling with what to say. I’ve been asking myself; am I essential? Should I have a policy? Should I post the policy? If I don’t post a policy, will people not trust me? If I do post a policy, will it remind people that I touch literally everything I make, and they won’t want to touch the things I’ve made? Maybe I should go look at some of my friend’s sites, see what they’re posting? Maybe I should go over to Etsy and read through the forums and see what people are talking about saying?
Hooo boy, was that a mistake.
I thought the people at the grocery store were paranoid and tense and frightened? They had nothing on the things I saw on Etsy.
I was hoping to find … strength? Solidarity? Connection? A “we’re all in this together” vibe…? I don’t know. What I found was … makers closing their shops right and left. People closing shops because they don’t want to overwhelm the postal carriers with packages of things that aren’t essential. People closing shops because they don’t sell essential things and they want to help people save money by not tempting them with things they don’t need. People closing down shops because they don’t want to deal with customers asking when shipments are going to get there if there are postal delays. People closing shops because they used to sew one thing and started sewing masks and either people who already made mask coverings are attacking them for jumping on a bandwagon or Etsy is delisting any and all listings that mention Covid-19 or Coronavirus. (Side note: some sellers were also saying they got an email from Etsy saying that they are actively encouraging sellers who sew to start making face masks if they’re not already doing so, so….. Take that for what you will.) People in a panic because they’ve heard the United States Postal Service could possibly shut down in June (I have not even had the mental space or time to research that one and see if it’s true; people in the Etsy forums are screaming both “yes” and “no” and both sides are completely convinced they’re the ones who are right). People closing their shops because their shops weren’t doing very well anyway and they think this is going to be the death knell of their business.
So again; hooooooooooooooo boy. I’m feeling GREAT right now. If by “great” you mean “well I WAS feeling better but now I’m starting to get anxious again”. So let me break this down.
My packages overwhelming the postal system is honestly not a thing that even occurred to me. And believe me I am THE QUEEN of taking on responsibility for and feeling guilty about things that are absolutely not in my control or that even really involve me. Was I even thinking about the postal service at all? I mean, I think about my postal carrier; I like her and she is kind and funny and listens to audio books as she delivers her mail. She probably finishes a book a day. I was wondering if it would be weird of me to give her some soap, as a “thank you, be well” gift. But … overwhelming the entire United States Postal Service with my few packages a day….? Not something I was worrying about. I would think people suddenly buying thousands of rolls of toilet paper from Amazon would be more of a threat to the system. Why would I even worry about using a system that has been… designed to be used?
Shutting down because I don’t sell essential things is not something that occurred to me. I mean, it’s not like I randomly send things out. I send things because people buy things. If they’re not buying, I don’t mail things. Why should I close my store, actively discouraging people from buying things? What if they want my soap? And who decides what is “essential”? A friend on FB posted that she went to Target, and all the clothes were roped off as un-buyable because they weren’t “essential”. But the makeup aisle was open. What the adfljad;slsdajfsd;j.
Closing my store because I don’t want to answer customer’s questions is just flat asinine. I mean, I just can’t even, with this one. Who starts a craft business and thinks that nobody, ever, at any time, will ask them a question? That’s… just… what… I can’t even. Those people probably shouldn’t have opened a shop in the first place. It’s not like a handmade craft business is some dropshiping site for batteries or something. People are going to want to talk to you. That’s part of making things by hand; people want a connection. What the a;dlfja;sldfjkla;sdlfj.
The USPS shutting down in a few months was totally not on my radar. So, thanks for that one! I mean, I could maybe get away with shipping just UPS and FedEx, maybe bringing in DHL or some other lesser-known transport company. Who knows, by June, maybe Jeff Bezos will have bought the United States Postal Service and it’ll go forward being known only as United Amazon Shipping Service. Sigh. Overall, these comments didn’t do anything except make me worry about something I wasn’t even thinking about before. So thanks a pantsload, Etsy.
All of this makes me think that I’m not going to find an answer off-site; I’m going to have to come up with the answer myself, no matter what other people are doing.
So let me answer some of my own questions.
So. Do I touch everything I make? Yes; yes I do. Because I make things by hand. Most likely, hopefully, that’s even what drew you towards me. I make things by hand, and you use the things I make (since mostly what I make are functional pieces)… and through that, we have a connection. Do you want to be reminded about that? Again, hopefully, that sense of connection to you and to me and to the handmaking process and to all the people who have come before who have made things… that sense of connection is what you want. Not what you fear.
Am I following CDC guidelines at work? Well; ok. So. There’s a joke going around the ceramics world right now that says “Ceramic Artists: washing our hands every twenty minutes since (insert year you started working with ceramics)”. Hahah! Thank you, I’ll be here all week!
But really though; a lot of the CDC guidelines aren’t applicable to me. I work alone so there’s no issue about 6’ between me and a coworker (I’m really trying to not put in something funny here, about my cats being coworkers or supervisors). I already work at home. I already wash my hands about 30 times a day. Of course I would send myself home if I started feeling sick, but paid sick leave for two weeks? Uhm, can I just vaguely say that I would pay myself the same that I get paid when I am working? *side eye*
So. What are the other recommendations? Well, I do have some masks that I got for when I’m dyeing yarn, but if I don’t work with anyone else and I never go anywhere, do I have to wear one at work? And gloves? I have some latex gloves, also for dyeing yarn, but again, I work at home and have no one else in my studio, so…. ??? It’s also heckin’ hard to work with clay while wearing gloves. Cleaning? I already clean up after dyeing yarn and after making soap, with bleach… but a lot of the rest of the studio is full of clay dust a lot. So, I’m cleaning, but I was cleaning before this, so….??? And I’m providing protection for myself but it’s the same protection I provided myself before this, so…???
But here’s a thing; I’m under 60, but I have asthma and kidney disease (well, one kidney, and while Lefty’s a champ, they do classify me as having kidney disease). So I fall under the blanket of people who should stay home and should social distance as much as possible. So if I get sick…? First, that’s going to be really bad luck because I hardly ever go anywhere or see anyone. Second, I’m going to quit working and lay in bed for a week, because with the asthma, a virus that settles in the lungs are gonna kick my butt. I won’t want to work because I’ll be exhausted, and I also won’t want to work because I won’t want to touch anything that I’d be sending to someone. I’m not an animal. I wouldn’t deliberately infect someone if I knew I was infected, and I would do my best to not accidentally infect someone by putting myself in a position to get infected. If I get it, I temporarily close my shop so that I’m not touching or making anything that someone else might wind up with.
Why should I trust/believe you? That’s a good question. I’m pretty up-front; if I’m thinking it, I’m showing it, and if I’m telling it, that’s what it is. *shrugs* I could sit here and tell you how honest I am, but I feel like the more someone says that the more it sounds like they’re covering something up. So let’s just say that I’ve laid it all out here but if you need to ask me some more questions, go ahead! Anything that helps you get rid of doubt.
Should I post a Covid-19 policy on the HaldeCraft website? Ugh. I still don’t know. When I first started talking about it I was like “maybe I’ll just write a blog post about trying to write a policy”… Now here I am, thousands of words later. Ain’t nobody gonna read this if they’re just looking to see if I wash my hands.
Am I essential? This is one of those existential questions that makes my mind spiral off. I don’t usually feel essential. I feel like one of those people who is mostly tolerated by the cooler kids but next week they will not remember my name. But check this out – according to the Governor of Florida, I’m essential. Why? Because under the list of essential businesses that can stay open? “gg. Any business that is interacting with customers solely through electronic or telephonic means, and delivering products via mailing, shipping, or delivery services” … Huh. So all of these Etsy sellers saying they should close their stores because they’re non-essential, if their State’s Shelter in Place Policy is similar, they could also fall under the “essential” umbrella. I feel a little sorry for the people who decide to close when they didn’t have to, and maybe are never able to reopen their shops.
Almost 2000 words later (and probably 2000 words I should have been writing in my chapter for Patreon) and I’m not really any closer to where I was.
But also… if I did close my shop, what would I do? I would probably continue to make things, continue to worry about things, but I wouldn’t get paid for either. That’s just dumb. I wish rocking back and forth under your desk while chewing on your hair and whispering to yourself paid well! Until it does, though, I’ll keep making mugs and soap and yarn and filling each molecule of what I make with love.