Photography © Shannon O’Connor
I lost my ID badge somewhere between the Gray door and the Yawkey building. It was on a clip on my shirt, and it wasn’t secure. I knew I would lose it someday. But it had to be today.
In the hospital, the ID badge is everything. These days, employees can’t walk in the door without their badge. And most people use it to punch in, and it’s the key to open all the doors, and to use the staff elevator to get to the right floor. Without my badge, I didn’t exist at the hospital. I might as well quit.
Working at the hospital during the pandemic is interesting. I don’t know why I started working at the hospital in the first place. I don’t have a burning desire to help people, but I had a lot of customer service experience, and that’s important here. I am a writer, and I look for stories, and I thought the hospital would be a good place to discover the truth about all the suffering souls that walk through the doors. The pain never ends.
I haven’t run into many writers who work in the hospital at my level. Most people who work in the admin levels are not creative. My coworkers that surround me only want to talk about their children and what their children are doing, or their grandchildren, which is even more annoying. One day a woman I worked with asked me if I wanted to see a picture of her grandchild, and I didn’t want to, but she showed it to me anyway. If I said I didn’t want to see it, that would make me sound like a sociopath. I didn’t want the people I work with to think that I’m crazy, because I’m not. Anymore. But that’s a different story.
The picture of my face dropped on the floor somewhere in the main hallway, and I have no idea if anyone would find it. I got to the Yawkey building, and sat at a table on the second floor, and looked for my badge, and it wasn’t there. I would have to take the public elevator to the fifth floor, which I didn’t like to do. My stomach boiled. I put the pieces of my badge that were still there in my pocket. I would have to get a new badge, and pay thirty dollars for it.
The people who work in the hospital are stressed now. Even the ones who don’t work with COVID patients are feeling the pull of the virus. I walk through the hallways and I see employees with their arms folded in their chests, hunched over like they’re in pain, and people walk around wearing scowls on their faces. I don’t think they’re in physical pain, I think it’s the pain of the world that makes them hunch over.
I believe the pandemic makes people into who they really are. If someone is a nice person, they will become nicer. If someone is a total jerk, they will become more of a jerk. If a person has anxiety, their anxiety will get worse, but everyone is anxious. People need to find an outlet to express themselves, and if they don’t, their anxiety will seep into themselves and take over.
The only place where there’s traffic in the city of Boston is near the different hospital areas. Everywhere else is like a ghost town in the middle of the day. And people say it’s not going to go back to normal. Companies are going to continue to have employees work at home because there is less overhead. Some people want to go to work to get out of the house and have a life, shoot the breeze over a cup of coffee. Everyone is different.
I mourn for my lost badge as I go up the public elevator. I don’t know how I’ll get around and open the doors I need to open. I can punch in on the computer, but I have to get a new badge today.
Later in the morning, I get an email from one of the doctors in my department who works in a different building that he found my badge on the floor near Coffee Central. I email him back to tell him that I can go there to pick it up. I’m so happy that I don’t have to buy a new badge and take a new picture. I like my old picture. In it, I have the face of a happy person who is about to start a new chapter in her life, because the world is full of possibilities. I want to keep that picture because I remember what it was like to have hope, and I want to hold it close to my heart because we all need some hope during these bleak, desolate days.
Shannon O’Connor holds a Master of Fine Arts in Writing and Literature from Bennington College. She has been published previously in Oddball, and also in Wordgathering, Wilderness House Literary Review, and others. She lives in the Boston area and can be found on her blog.