Orlando, FL

Am I part of the problem for working at a theme park during COVID?

Evie M.

Recently, I moved to Orlando to perform at a theme park right in the middle of COVID. Terrible timing, right? The thing is, we all thought the world was starting to bounce back, and it was then or never, but here I am about to start work as theme parks around Orlando start to drop Halloween events, some raising capacity all while positive COVID cases climb without a lock-down in sight.

And instead of getting hyped up to be in this incredible city and do what I love, a part of me keeps wondering if I’m part of the problem?

“It can’t be that bad, can it?” That is what I asked my mom, a 40-year E.R. doctor, when the first wave of COVID news started to come out what feels like decades ago.

It turns out it was pretty bad. My mom is a woman who’s seen the worst of the worst: Ebola, typhoid, SARS. Or, as my mom put it when she went to the front lines in that terrifying, flat doctor voice, “it’s serious.”

When she went off for said deployment, it was a very “oh shit” moment. Life wasn’t just on hold it shut down. Do you remember what it was like? How at first we clumsily had “fun” with it, like it was a sleepover but only one to distract the kids…and we all were the kids.

Pretty soon, the yolk started to divide from the whites. People took it seriously once the numbers climbed, locked themselves down. Or they didn’t. Or they were “waiting to see.”

Were we selfish for living?

For longer than I should have been, I admit I was in the “wait and see” camp. I took advantage of being an essential worker and started Door Dashing to continue raising money for my move while everyone ordered out and left fat tips for drivers as they waved them off in their pajamas. I followed the rules, wore my mask like so many other people just trying to work. My mom instructed me on how to be careful, how to clean correctly.

Was I a part of the problem then? Probably. Even though I was standing six feet away and minding my business, could I have hurt someone? Yes, probably. It’s not a nice thought, but not thinking about these things is how we get to the place we’re at now, just saying.

But like so many weddings that canceled and vacations crushed, jobs lost, lives halted, I’d paid for my new Orlando apartment was paid for, I was ready to move, I’d won the gig. For years I’d carefully lined up those dominos to fall, and now what? What could we do? Were we selfish for wanting to live even if we followed the rules? For needing to work? Clearly, COVID was not well-timed for anyone.

Hell, this job will pay for the lease I just signed. In my mind, I had to go. Didn’t I?

I feel selfish for living.

I got my shots, traveled by car, brought cleaning supplies to the hotel when I stayed overnight. But I can’t help feeling like a total jerk because some people are not on their way to a fun job and a new life in gorgeous Orlando. Maybe it’s even you. Or people struggling to breathe, laid out in Central Florida hospital cafeterias because there aren’t enough beds. People are losing their lives to COVID or loved ones, some fully vaccinated.

Which is why I’m doing everything I’m told. So many of us are just trying to do what we’re told and balancing life. Are we wrong for coming to Florida to cruise as ships set sail again, even though 23 people just caught COVID on a Carnival cruise carrying a little over four thousand people? Or the ones who’ll soon flood to Halloween events where I’ll be, too? Night after night?

Are we wrong for trying to have fun or keep a roof above our heads in this new world? Maybe. But this job is why I came here. And as I sit here waiting for my recruiter to call with a start date, all I can do is wonder if I’m the issue.

Will I hurt someone even if the first thing I’ll be asking wardrobe is for a way to incorporate a mask into the costume if there won’t be one already? If I have all my shots, try not to get too close even though that’s my job? I think the theme park in question is doing a bang-up job of taking CDC suggestions very seriously. We went from no masks with proof of vaccination for employees to required (so far as I know), and I’m happy to oblige, but is it enough?

No clue. All I can say is I’m doing my best, and I will continue doing it. But it’s something I’m not sure I’ll be able to get out of my mind. How about you?

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"Reader beware, you're in for a scare!--R.L. Stine"

Orlando, FL
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