Shannon Kerr says that he’s the biggest introvert that he knows. Weeks into the pandemic, while those around him fret about not being able to see loved ones, the Winston-Salem resident says he’s thriving.
“I was made for this,” he says on a recent phone call. “I get to stay at home and make music and hang out with my partner. It’s been great.”
Kerr understands the emotional and financial toll that the pandemic has taken on most people. He had to file for unemployment for reduced hours weeks ago when his job at a coffeeshop inside of a High Point retailer cut everyone’s hours.
“For the first five or six weeks, once the governor started shutting things down, they reduced everyone’s hours,” he says. “Instead of laying people off, they just reduced us to zero hours. We were kept on payroll but were scheduled for zero hours.”
Kerr says he only recently went back to work two weeks ago, right before the state entered Phase 1 of reopening.
“The first week I was back was extremely quiet,” he says. “We had less than half of our normal business. The numbers were significantly down, but they have been climbing back up in recent weeks. We were concerned when we transitioned to Phase 1.”
On the days leading up to May 8 as well as the first few after, Kerr says that the coffeeshop was particularly busy and customers acted like they did before the pandemic.
“That week it was extremely noticeable that most customers were not following the safety guidelines that the state had put out,” he says. “The closer that we got to that weekend, the fewer people seemed to be wearing masks or keeping distance. I would say only 20 percent of people were wearing masks.”
Now, more than a week after the reopening, Kerr says things have gotten better. He says that most people have started to wear masks again and are being considerate of those around them.
“You’ve seen more and more people pay attention to how close they are to other people,” he says. “They’re being cautious. It seems to be trending back in other direction. It was unexpected but appreciated.”
As a coffeeshop employee, Kerr comes into regular face-to-face contact with his customers. At his job, plexiglass barriers have been installed at the cash registers, and signs have been put up alerting people to “take it and go” rather than “stay and sit.” Kerr’s manager also got sewing patterns and made face masks for all the shop’s employees.
When he’s not working shifts slinging coffee and pulling shots, Kerr says he’s spending time at home making music and taking online classes in music marketing.
“I’ve gotten a lot of personal stuff accomplished so it’s been more of a transition going back than staying home,” he says. “But I also have to recognize that I am an outlier and other people have been suffering from the lack of social interaction.”
Like many people stuck at home, Kerr says that he has been using Zoom or Google Hangouts to videocall family members regularly. His band, Hinge Theory, also recently started doing in-person practices again.
Kerr also dropped a single on Spotify not long ago and has an album release scheduled for July 3.
“There’s are a lot of things I’ve been wanting to do for a long time that I can do now,” Kerr says.
He also started a video series on YouTube prior to the pandemic that he’s kept up even now. He posts videos about anxiety and depression as a way to help others who may be going through similar emotional stress.
“It’s been really helpful to say out loud all of the things that have been making me anxious,” he says. “And it’s nice to see that it’s been helpful for viewers too.”
- Favorite thing eaten in quarantine: We’ve been trying, in a reasonable way, to support a lot of the local places. We’ve ordered from the Porch, Nawab Indian Cuisine and La Botana and enjoyed every single one.
- Quarantine silver lining: As an introvert, it has been increasingly restful but also having suddenly the time to really focus on the creative aspects that I have been working on for a long time has been nice. Hopefully I can move in that direction for the future.
- What you are watching/reading/listening to: Interestingly enough, we’ve been watching a lot less television even though we’re home more. I’ve been getting into various podcasts. Mostly about the things I’m interested in. I really like “The Punk Rock MBA.” It’s a business and marketing podcast from a DIY/punk and hardcore viewpoint.
- Words of encouragement: None of us are alone. I know there are still people who are stuck being isolated even with the easing and it can feel like everybody is fighting their own battles, especially people who have mood disorders like me. But even when things feel uncertain, it’s not. Just like every other battle, we will get through this.