A personal story from an adman who became an essential worker during the pandemic

By Aaron Hackett | 11 May 2020
Aaron Hackett

Aaron Hackett, formerly director of performance at Wavemaker Melbourne, is currently a temporary warehouse assistant

I was made redundant from a great job in media mere days before the lockdowns began all the way back in early March.

I took the opportunity as a gift; I was going to spend the time as an author. I’ve loved writing since I was young and have been writing a novel for some time. Now was my chance to finish it.

My plan was that I would look for a new role while writing the first draft, and give myself a week or two before starting a new role. Bingo! I was excited to have this time, though I did miss the wonderful people at Wavemaker.

Then Covid-19 hit us like a punch to the stomach in the dark. At first, I was intrigued by the illness. I watched the news filter out of China and wondered how this would impact the global economy. Then it began to spread. And spread. Until it became the Pandemic. You know all of this part, so I won’t linger.

I ended up finishing the first draft of my novel, the working title is The Amber Table. it’s a sci-fi, horror- thriller. Think if Michael Crichton and Stephen King married, had a child, abused it psychologically and there we are.

I began the second draft which is a much slower process than the first draft. It was about a month into Lockdowns that I started getting bored. I’m the sort of person who needs to be busy and around people.

My wife works at Baby Bunting Chadstone and they remained open as they are an essential service. It was before and during this time that I had had so many phone calls with recruiters that started with “Tell me about yourself” and ended with “Unfortunately, all roles have been put on ice”.

Back to my wife. She received an email from Baby Bunting asking if anyone had lost their job, because they had work available in the Dandenong distribution centre. After having so many jobs fall through, from being bored I said, what the hell and just went for it—Stephen King worked in warehouses and factories. So I could too.

To an outsider, 5am seems an inauspicious time to roll out of bed. It's two hours earlier than I’m used of getting up. I got my high-vis outfit and steel cap boots and felt like I’d morphed into a tradie over-night. I grew a beard because why not? My first impressions of the people in the warehouse was. Wow! These guys are so happy. How is this? Aren't we in a scary pandemic? I concluded that these people are essential workers, the heroes who allow mums of all types to stay at home with their bubs. The people in the warehouse’s humor was uplifting. Hell, it was great to be around other people. I must admit.

Each person I met there told me what a big change it must be going from corporate to warehouse. It was a huge change for me. I was used to being around the cafes, restaurants and lovely offices of Southbank in Melbourne and South Yarra. Weekly free lunches, Friday drinks and high-quality food. There I was sitting on a curb with the smokers and their Nescafe blend 20 black-water cigarette bin eating lunch I had brought from home. Yes. I was a long way from Agency life. But this was an adventure. I was becoming an essential worker for the first time in my life. I felt empowered.

There’s a common cliché you hear around agencies when someone has Effed up, “We’re not saving babies. It will be Okay.” Despite the mundane and repetitive tasks, I was performing. It felt great to actually help keep Mum’s and babies stay safe amidst the chaos swirling around us all, an invisible twister destroying at random.

Never before have these workers received the praise that they deserve. It was a terrific experience that I would repeat in a heartbeat. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to be Essential even if it was just for a fleeting moment, and not just buying ads and helping companies grow their bottom lines. This has given me a new-found appreciation for workers on the front-lines, Well done to all. You’ve made us all proud!

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