These are the words of a famous reality T.V. star who now sits in the oval office.
I have been fired from my market research job with Omnitrak and the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA).
Omnitrak is a market research company that specializes in tracking visitor trends and spending habits. If you hear figures on how much visitors spend in Hawaii, I had a hand in getting those figures. Here’s how it works.
The client — in this case HTA — creates a survey for travellers to fill out. They send it to Omnitrak to print and send out to field interviewers like me. I then take those surveys to Kona International Airport for distribution among travellers, both local residents and out-of-state visitors. They complete the surveys and hand them back to me before boarding their flights. When I get home I have to tally up how many passengers I got on flights leaving Kona before I send off my surveys to Honolulu.
I had a monthly quota of 1150 surveys. Since this was only a part time job I had to go to Kona on the days with the heaviest visitor traffic. Weekends are when most visitors choose to leave Hawaii especially in the mornings.
Kona Airport is also an open air airport. There are no walls at the gates. That is because visitors like to view the beautiful sunrises and sunsets and to take pictures for their Instagram websites. None of the aircraft have jet ways for travelers to walk on. Instead, airport ground staff drive a ramp to the aircraft door so that passengers can disembark in sunny Hawaii.
In other words Kona’s airport is literally an air port. But that also means everyone at the gate is inhaling the exhaust fumes from arriving and departing aircraft. That also means I have jet engines roaring in my ears. I’m also exposed to the elements from the searing sun to the occasional downpour.
I’m also vulnerable to disasters, both natural and man made. So far I’ve weathered the Kilauea eruption as well as Hurricane Lane that blew through Hawaii Island in 2018. I’ve survived Boeing’s MAX 8 problems and I’ve even endured a verbal tit-for-tat nuclear war between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. I even lived through a fake missile attack.
But I could not survive a pandemic.
March 15th, 2020 was my last day at work. That weekend of March 14 & 15 I saw at least 4,000 passengers pass through the Hawaiian Air terminal. At that time no one knew what social distancing was. Is it 2 feet? Six feet?
No one, myself included, was wearing a mask because there was zero leadership from the federal and state governments. I was hoping Governor Ige would ask the President of the United States to ground all travel like what happened after 9-11. I’m also immune compromised. More on my health issues later.
Unfortunately, no one was willing to ground all flights in the U.S. so I had to take matters into my own hands. I e-mailed my boss at Omnitrak saying that I won’t be returning to work until I feel it is safe for me to return.
Since mid February I’ve had several health issues from the flu to a UTI to an arthritis flare up at the end of March. I somehow fractured my right foot from walking my dog. I also had problems with my toes on the same foot. At one point I could not stand up without a cane. I had to ask my sister to do my errands for me. I’ve seen my primary doctor, my dermatologist, as well as my podiatrist several times. On my visit with my podiatrist in June he examined my foot and said that my fracture was close to healing, 90-98% healed. He wanted me to return in July for a follow up visit. I had scheduled July 17 as a follow up visit with my podiatrist.
On July 7th however, I received an e-mail from Omnitrak. Governor Ige announced that Hawaii would be open to out-of-state visitors August 1st. Omnitrak was planning to jumpstart interviewing operations August 10th at all airports. They needed interviewers to return to work and they needed a response before July 17th.
There’s just one problem. My doctor’s appointment was on July 17th.
I requested for more time to respond. I wanted to make my final decision based on what my doctor advised.
Unfortunately I felt my foot could not heal fast enough. Omnitrak’s response?
“Given the uncertainty of your situation please go ahead & send all materials to me.
*Remaining supply of surveys & reporting forms
*All remaining supplies purchased & reimbursed by Omnitrak
*Uniform(vest & Omnitrak name blade)
*Omnitrak project manual
*Security/sterile area badge
*Parking access cards
Never in a million years did I ever dream I could be fired in the middle of a pandemic. That’s just cruel.
Back in March I complained how I wished Ige would ask Trump to ground all travel. When he refused I complained to a friend who said Ige has his hand in the pockets of HTA and the hotel industry.
“It’s all about the Benjamins,” my friend ranted online.
While I understand Omnitrak is in the business of making money for their client, I never thought they would hastily dispose of my services after working for them for four years. I’ve never felt like a disposable coffee cup, dropped in the trash after single use. I never thought Omnitrak would put big business first over the wellbeing of their employees. It is about the Benjamins, Washingtons, and Lincolns that visitors bring. Where are Omnitrak’s priorities? Where is their moral compass? I’ve always said, “you can’t rebuild a shattered economy without workers.”
While I’m glad to be no longer with Omnitrak the way I was fired was done in haste because the state was planning to open Hawaii to visitors August 1st. It has since been delayed to Sept. 1st. In any case we are not yet ready to allow visitors to come to Hawaii.
I’m now in the process of looking for another job. I do have another part time job as a school crossing guard. That job will restart August 4th with the new school year so at least I still have some income. But it is not enough to cover my doctor bills, rent, car insurance, and food. I’m looking into getting another county job as a contact tracer or as a community outreach health worker. Hawaii needs more contact tracers and community health workers for the onslaught of visitors who are hammering our gates just to get in come September 1st.