CINA BURKS is a server at the Wyld Dock Bar, a personal shopper and couponer, and a mother of three. The pandemic interrupts a busy spring and summer season for the Wyld’s servers, so Cina is holed up at home with her daughter Aamyia, who has asthma and has lost her senior year at Islands High.
This is her Quarantine Chronicle.
What’s life like for you right now? How are you doing?
My life is a standstill. It’s at a pause. We went back to work—dinners opened back up at the Wyld for one week. I had a bust-ass week, I was ready to work another double the next week, and then we closed. We just went through the winter at the Wyld, so this is all we’ve been thinking—“It’s about to be good.”
Luckily for me, I was so broke over the winter that this is how I’ve been living. I’m kind of used to it. That’s the mindset I go into every winter: you hunker down, you don’t have that much money, you just get through.
Also, I had filed my taxes and I did get money back. That will hold me. I also feel like I’m fortunate enough that I’m one of those people that I live below my means. Before this whole corona thing, before we had been back to work, I sat down and did my budget. With me being how I am and penny-pinching, I had already done two budgets. I knew what I needed to live on to get by, and then I knew my budget on how much I needed to make a week to still enjoy my lattes.
One of my buddies posted some meme about couponers and stockpiling, and he was like, “We’ve been waiting for this our whole life.” But I’m disappointed—I only had a tiny stockpile. I only had one milk crate of extra stuff. If I had been up on my couponing game, I would’ve been set, because one of those items would’ve been Lysol wipes, or detergent, or cereal, or toilet paper. After this, I’m going back to couponing, because then I would’ve been able to help other people.
So right now, it’s at a pause. We’re trying to figure out what to do. Aamyia had just gotten a job—she’s a host at Ruby Tuesday, and she called and let them know her mother and doctor were advising her not to come back and they understood. They said she’d still have a job when she came back.
It’s interesting to see what businesses treat their employees well.
I’m watching people going, “I see you. I see you’re still open, I see you’re still abusing your employees. You’re making your employees choose.” The Wyld did it for a week, then they furloughed us. At first, they had us pick up paperwork, but the next day they emailed us all and said, “We’re filing unemployment for y’all.”
I know you personally from working with you, and I know you to be exceptionally good with money, more so than many other servers we know.
I got goosebumps from that. I’m fortunate enough. I think about, what if one of my coworkers really has no money? We’re going to miss our whole summer. There’s going to be a lot of people who are financially fucked from this.
And I’m really, really fortunate that the Wyld is helping with unemployment. Even if they only give it to us for six weeks, that’s six weeks that I had nothing. I can tell you right now, from when there was a hurricane and I got emergency food stamps, it is not quick and it is not emergency. When I went in October to get on food stamps, I think they gave me like $100 and it was gone a week later.
My mother is an ER doctor and she’d say, “These women would come in and I’d run their Medicaid and it’s not valid. I never understood that. How do you not know if your Medicaid is valid or not valid?” I moved in with her and she saw real quick. They’d kick me off, say they didn’t get something, and I’d have to go redo something and get put back on. I’m like, “Mom, I’ve got six different Medicaid cards because that’s how many times they’ve booted me off.” And she’s like, “You’re intelligent!”
What’s it like having a child who is more susceptible to the virus? What does that feel like for you as a mom?
Craziness. What if I bring it home to her? On top of the fact of her being—when they canceled school, I didn’t want to tell her.
Is she scared?
Actually, she’s not scared. She’s more laid back, go with the flow. She’s not irritated with the fact that school’s been canceled because she doesn’t want to do school online because they’re giving her more work than they were before.
I don’t know how much they understand. There’s a meme that says, “In ten years, people will ask your kids what happened, and your kids will be like, ‘I don’t know, mom and dad stayed home all day and they cooked dinner every day and they played board games.’ They don’t really have a clue.
She’s been in the house for three weeks now. She hasn’t left; she’s not leaving. I’m not taking her anywhere. It’s at the point now that I’m going to see if I can get her medication myself. Usually we go pick up her medication from post because she has a military ID, and I’m going to see if I can go do it without her. Otherwise, I’m going to see if they can mail it to me, because I don’t want to take her on post.
Yesterday I was going to go to Starbucks, and my mother was like, “Yeah, just go in the drive-thru.” I’m like, but what if the person that makes my coffee has corona?” She’s like, “That’s the risk you take. You can wipe down the cup with Lysol wipes, or take it home and pour it into another cup,” and I’m like, never mind. I know part of me is probably going, “You could get that cup and be fine.” But what if?
What do you want other people to take seriously?
This can happen again. And if this hasn’t proven to you that you need to have a safety net ... You need to have that budget so you know what you need to live on and what you can survive on.
I was telling my daughter, “I was waiting for this to happen, and then boom, this happened.” I am going to try to teach them. I told them, “What are three ideas that you can come up with for a business right now, in your home, that you might have to do online?” Because who says we’re going back to normal?