Day #29: Tuesday, April 14, 2020
A day in the life of an essential worker
April 15, 2020
absolutely necessary; extremely important.”
(From google dictionary)
That is the first thing I see when I type the word essential into the Google Search bar and press enter. Seems like a pretty simple and straightforward definition, no? Just four words that fit together and make total sense.
So what does this have to do with anything, you may ask? Well, the first thing you should know is: yes, I am an essential worker, and yes, I am working four to five days a week in the middle of a pandemic.
While it is not as life-threatening as working on the front lines or in the hospital as a doctor, nurse, or first responder, it is still just as scary being out in public surrounded by people whom you know nothing about. Going to work in a grocery store that hundreds of people visit every day means not knowing where people have been or if they are sick or not. It means you have to constantly worry about catching the virus but not showing symptoms, then going home to spread it to your family and loved ones, and having it affect them.
Well, what do I do to keep myself and my co-workers safe during this life crisis? Honestly, a LOT.
The first thing I do when I get to work is to punch in using our finger scanner which is COVERED in germs since no one remembers to wipe it off through the day. After I’ve touched that germ campground, I go to the bathroom and wash my hands, making sure I wash them everywhere for at least 20-25 seconds (and no, I do not sing when I do this). When I leave the bathroom, I grab the handle with my sleeve because once again, no one wipes it down.
Yes, Mariano’s (yes, I am exposing where I work, do not come for me) provides us with latex gloves to protect our hands. Yes, we have to change them after we use the bathroom or if we sneeze into them. No, of course, they do not fit me, which results in me having to wear scrunchies tight enough to keep them in place and make my wrists itch. We are not provided masks; many of my coworkers tie bandanas to their faces to protect themselves, many do not. The most annoying part of all this? I am fully aware I can not touch my face. I am constantly reminding myself and have it stuck in my head. Yet, my body rebels against me and my entire face itches. Every. Dang. Day.
Now when it comes to me working, I have to bag everyone’s groceries. Yes, I hate the paper bags but luckily we have not been using them for a while due to the fact that the virus could supposedly spread from the bags. The same thing goes for reusable bags; if someone comes to my register with them, I need to step aside and let them bag for themselves.
After a customer leaves, the cashier and I take our bottle of cleaning spray or disinfecting wipes, and clean the ENTIRE register. Both belts are sprayed and we wipe down the whole thing, not just one portion of it. Then the counter, where we have plastic walls to protect the workers and the silver countertops where we usually place the paper bags. And lastly, the card reader, where we wipe off the screen, the keypad, the pen, and the counter used for signing checks.
Reminder: we have to do all of this after EVERY SINGLE CUSTOMER! It is super annoying and frustrating doing this every five minutes for the entire shift. But it is even more infuriating when people walk right up, completely IGNORING the signs on the floor telling them to wait, and throw their stuff on the counter. Please just do not be disrespectful and act like the rules do not apply to you because news flash, they do! And also, STOP leaving your disgusting and dirty gloves and wipes in the cart or on the ground. You are an adult, act like it and clean up after yourself.
That is my entire work routine until this pandemic is over. While it may change or shift depending on how we can keep everyone safe, the emotions of fear I experience practically never change. There are some days when my co-workers and I are in good spirits laughing, talking, and smiling. But the dark reality always comes back to us after the little moments of happiness wear off. Lots of people say, “You are so lucky to still have a job!” Yes, I have a job that is not working from home, but while you are sitting in your safe living room, I am out here in this germ fest because I am considered “essential.” I am “essential” because I am needed to put people’s groceries in a bag to make money. I am risking my health because “essential” means absolutely necessary, therefore, I am absolutely needed to be out surrounded by germs just to put items in a bag so I can make a quick buck to help support myself. So please stop saying that and please do not leave your house unless you really need food for your family.