I saw the COVID-19 crisis coming before most people because my sister is a health care professional and actually contracted the virus in New York City during her brief vacation there for spring break.
I was driving for Lyft and also was seeing a dramatic decrease in Santa Fe airport pickups, starting in December.
Although the U.S. wasn’t hearing much about the novel coronavirus, I had a passenger who had just come back from Thailand, a person who had been in isolation there for two weeks. That was before 2020 began.
By the end of January, all of those customers had disappeared, literally overnight.
I had set up an Instacart delivery profile in November but didn’t see it going anywhere because of the lack of volume in orders.
In about three days, the entire market exploded once the public became aware of the situation.
For the record, I survived the AIDS epidemic, unlike many of my friends in the scene in the 1980s. The experience seems to have helped because I don’t do physical contact. Yet here I am with many friends and family who have to “shelter in safety.” Some are already in a bad situation, including my roommate, who was laid off from his job with Meow Wolf.
In some ways, I’ve decided to fill the gap during this crisis. I do not regret doing this, though it is putting my personal health on the front lines.
My daily ritual is waking up around 7 a.m., checking orders on Instacart or Roadie, the personal messages and texts from my established clients, who are all elderly or immunocompromised friends, friends of friends or family. I make sure they all can get their grocery orders at this point.
I generally work 10 to 12 hours a day, ensuring people get the groceries they need. Before all of this, I was working the gallery circuit, which I decided to walk away from because it didn’t seem very fulfilling.
I had already printed cards for my Lyft clients, so that has helped. But some notable local chefs also know me as well. Because the Instacart shopper volume has reached the maximum for the local area, I primarily hit up that platform early and handle that until it dries up. Then I do my shopping for personal contract orders.
My personal rates are much lower than the Instacart prices, and I drive outside the radius established by that platform. If we didn’t have this crisis, I wouldn’t do this, but people in need are people in need. I actually pay for most of my customers’ orders on my own dime at this point, and if they have issues with their orders, I eat that cost because it just seems like the thing to do right now.
I can’t wait to hang out with my friends when this situation is over, and I miss all my favorite restaurants and movies and hangout places. I have yet to have any complaints about how I do this for any of my clients.
Sam Haozous is self-employed as a driver for Instacart and past manager for Waitr Inc. and Fetch Delivery. He also administers and moderates several Facebook pandemic sites focused on groceries and health care.