Assessing Costs of Corona (Plague, Day 22, July 6, 2020)

Back in early April, I blogged about the cost that the virus was having on my family. Jonah lost out on rent for a vacant college apartment. I got hosed on some freelance writing gigs. We paid for tutors and private online classes for Ian, when his teachers and school disappeared during the second week of March.

The costs keep adding up.

In an incident that we’re now calling the Great Poop Disaster, the main sewer line backed up; our the bottom floor was flooded with nastiness last week. The iron pipe that carries shower, dishwasher, and toilet water out of the house became clogged with oxidized rust pellets, grease, and lint. With four people home for the past four months, the pipe could not handle the extra water flow.

It’s going to cost thousands to replace the flooring, walls, trim, furniture in the downstairs family room, storage closet, bathroom, and laundry room. Minus the $1,000 deductible and the $700 plumber, it will be covered by insurance, thank God.

The guys from the water remediation company, who are downstairs presently pulling up old linoleum, told me that they have been super busy. Everybody’s plumbing is breaking down with increased usage. Our homes were not designed for 24/7 hour usage by families, who usually spend most time at schools, colleges, and workplaces.

Steve’s company is not unhappy with the relocation of workers to home. They are saving a ton of money. It’s our pipes that need repairs, not theirs. We’re responsible for keeping the workplace tidy. I’m sure they fired the huge staff of people who are responsible for everything from IT repairs, janitors, stocking the coffee area, and maintaining the massive security system to get into his building. And they haven’t even reduced the physical size of the office yet. But that will happen for sure.

We’ve also taken over the expenses of purchasing and maintaining Steve’s computer. He spends ten hours a day parked in front a computer maintaining documents and databases. Right now, he’s using a low-end Dell, which was purchased a couple of years ago to run a couple of rudimentary video games and maintain the Quicken accounts. Now he’s using it to tap into the massive banking server and run zoom meetings with a staff of 12. Steve needs something better. His monitor doesn’t even have a camera. But the company has only given workers a $300 voucher for home equipment.

Businesses are saving money by having their workers assume the costs of running their companies.

Journalism, on a good day, was always a lousy way to earn an income. Now, it’s a disaster. My brother who works for a regional paper has to take a week furloughed every month. Our local paper is trying to keep its head above water by publishing long glossy obituaries for families who pay for that service. I’ll continue write, but in a very limited way and only on my own terms, until things pick up again.

But even if journalism wasn’t in the toilet (yes, the potty metaphors continue), I wouldn’t be able to work much anyway. Like millions of mothers, I had to assume the job of educating, entertaining, and providing therapy for my younger kid. Even the college kid, requires extra work, mostly in the area of food production.

K-12 schools and colleges, like private corporations, are taking advantage of us to do their jobs for them. We are still paying taxes for schools and tuition for colleges, but we aren’t getting services for those expenditures. How much longer will we pay for those broken institutions?

As I am writing this, the costs keeping adding up. The water remediation guys just found asbestos tiles under the lineoleum. So specialized workers are going to have to come here to pull all that up. And Jonah wandered downstairs to say that Rutgers announced that all of his classes were going to be online this fall, but there won’t be a discount in tuition.

We’re saving money on transportation, for sure. Our cars are used less frequently, so less gas money and car repairs. Steve’s saving money on train trips into Manhattan. We might actually get a refund on the commute parking lot by the train station. We’ve saving money on restaurants and entertainment, too. These savings won’t offset the costs.

Susie Orman was just on the Today Show talking about the problem of people who had good jobs will be on food pantry lines now. She said that in the future, everybody has to make sure that they have an 8-month safety account.

We’re lucky enough to still have solid employment, a savings account, insurance, good health, and a beer fridge in the basement. Our losses won’t put us in danger, but they are still annoying. We’re going to get sick of mopping up society’s messes soon.