Delivering heroes

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As we all strive to reduce contact with the outside world to protect ourselves and our families from the omnipresent threat of the coronavirus, delivery staff have become one of the many unsung heroes during this pandemic lifestyle.

Delivery services and apps have been a welcome lifeline for almost everyone these days. Anyone can get food delivered to their home or place of work, thanks to the tech-based systems that have been deployed by innovative companies. What started with food delivery has now branched out to grocery shopping, messenger services, and even wet-market shopping. Every day, hundreds, if not thousands of riders crisscross our streets, keeping our flagging local economies alive by ferrying essential goods between buyers and sellers.

Delivery services are among the few reasons why many local businesses can remain open even when surprise MECQs are announced from out of the blue. In our country where rules can change overnight, without warning and powerful public officials cooped up in their ivory towers can suddenly suspend public transportation while offices, shops and malls are still expected to remain open, the struggle is real.
Businesses and customers thank God that the delivery services established a foothold in our communities just as the pandemic was breaking out.

Because of delivery services, we can still shop for almost anything from the safety and comfort of home. No need to go out into the wild, where face masks, face shields, motorcycle barriers, marriage certificates, company ID, HQP, certificate of employment, baptismal certificate, business permit, and maybe even diploma could be required as our best and brightest government officials impose all kinds of rules, regulations and unnecessary expenses supposedly designed to protect us from the pandemic. They do this because COVID-19 is now rampaging in our communities after their efforts to erect an effective first line of defense failed miserably. It’s a good thing we have these delivery warriors who have been allowed to operate as an essential service, come hell, high water or ECQ.

There is no doubt that we are thankful for the service they provide despite the risks that come with their job.

However, there is a lot of room for improvement before we can generally call the actions of these delivery service providers truly heroic.

My biggest concern with the “hero” designation they’ve been given in recent days, where we’ve equated their service to that of health care workers, is that all the praise could go to their heads and they start acting like they are exempted from the rules.

There are many times that I’ve seen delivery riders driving their motorcycles like maniacs. Name the common kamote-rider moves, we have probably seen it in green, pink or red. They counterflow. They disrespect pedestrian lanes. They drive dangerously, weaving and cutting through traffic like they are privileged or something. They basically ignore basic traffic rules. When they do this, it’s more annoying than heroic. Do they do it because they think they are now special heroes, or were they just bad drivers to start with?

I don’t know if these heroes went through any training on how to use their vehicles properly. Do they get penalized by the service provider they work for if they are caught driving like privileged morons? Does the delivery company care that bad drivers can make them look bad, or is the delivery business doing so well that they don’t even care anymore? Is there is a way to report poor driving skills to the service provider? Since we know that we cannot count on the LTO, LTFRB, highway patrol or local governments to enforce even the simplest of traffic rules, our best option for delivery drivers to behave is if their company makes it clear that unacceptable driving is not tolerated.

Aside from unprofessional driving, my other concern, now that they have become indispensable in our quarantine lifestyle, is how they are kept safe from COVID-19 infection. Unless I’m wrong, despite being among the most vulnerable to infection because of the nature of their job, these guys don’t get tested regularly. They probably underwent some sort of training or orientation during the early days of the outbreak but I doubt if there have been any refresher courses.

This is why even if we may regard them as lifesavers or heroes, we still have to always assume they are infected. Never allow them into your home or workplace. Keep the transaction outside, minimize contact, and maximize physical distancing as much as possible. Don’t forget to wear your facemask and disinfect your hands after contact.

Delivery services have become an essential part of our society but they are still far from perfect and we have to be aware of that. If there are reckless and inconsiderate kamote riders among them, there will also be those careless with personal hygiene, mask wearing and physical distancing. These “front liners” are outside most of the time, interacting with multiple buyers and sellers throughout the day.
Those not hyper-aware and super careful all of the time, not just when on the job, but even when in between jobs, are prime candidates for catching the virus.

We call them heroes because they take the risks for us. The simple fact is that most of them do it because they have no choice and have to earn a living. As we continue our symbiotic relationship by patronizing their essential service, let us keep in mind that we are dealing with imperfect humans, not superheroes blessed with invulnerability from COVID-19.

They are not quite heroes but we definitely need them to survive these days. Be respectful, be grateful, and be careful. Tip them properly when they do a good job and call them out when you see mistakes because it is for their own good.*

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October 2020
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