During a Pandemic, Doctors and Nurses Are Essential Workers. So Are Those of Us in Grocery Stores

Caitlin Boyle |

(Source: Pixabay.com)
(Source: Pixabay.com)

During this pandemic, I have been called an essential worker. To me, being an essential worker is important. Even though many businesses are closed, essential workers are on the clock helping people through this trying time. Health care workers, emergency service workers, and government workers are being called upon to keep everyone safe and healthy.

My job? I never thought my job was very important, but now I know that it’s essential. I’m a grocery store worker, and I am on the front lines of the coronavirus.

I started working at Woodman’s in Altoona at the end of January. I needed to bring in some income as I was looking for a full-time job. I was a cashier in high school and part of college, so I was pretty familiar with how everything worked and flowed. I also did most of my grocery shopping at Woodman’s, so I thought it would be a good place to work. And it is. I am currently a bagger, and I am working part-time right now. The store is usually busy, which keeps me busy, too. I just wasn’t prepared for how busy we were going to get in March, when the job and policies got completely turned upside down.

Most of the customers I have helped are very appreciative that we are doing our jobs. The gratitude helps make going to work feel important and “essential.”

When the pandemic took hold across the United States and Wisconsin in March, and local businesses were being told to close along with schools and gyms, I knew in the back of my mind that Woodman’s would be busier than ever. But I wasn’t expecting what transpired.

Suddenly, I would walk into work and see a line of people that stretched as far back as the frozen foods department. Customers were waiting as long as two hours to check out as we tried our best to get them through quickly and efficiently. Some days I would learn about new rules or procedures. One big change was having waiting lines marked so customers could stay 6 feet apart from each other.

Every single person I work with was pushed to the max. We could work as many hours as we wanted to keep up with the constant flow of people stocking up for an unknown length of time. Eventually, plexiglass windows were placed at registers so customers and employees could be separated. At first, only people in certain departments were required to wear masks; then the policy was extended to every employee.

While I feel that some of the policies should be implemented and some not, the company I work for has shown how important every single employee is, and they are doing everything possible to keep us all safe. I am grateful for this. I am also grateful to have a job to go to, considering that so many people have lost their jobs or have had their hours reduced. Most of the customers I have helped are very appreciative that we are doing our jobs. The gratitude helps make going to work feel important and “essential.”

I don’t know how long the quarantine or this new way of living will last. I hope people will follow the government’s guidelines so we can get back to a sort of normalcy. I encourage people – no matter how they are preventing themselves from getting sick – to practice patience and kindness. That goes a long way for all of us who are working to serve our community. When you go shopping, expect to wait, but know that we are trying to get every customer through as quickly as we can.

I hope that when all is said and done, we are all still practicing our patience and spreading kindness. If this pandemic teaches us anything, I hope it’s that these practices continue. Because if they do, we can make the world brighter and better than ever.

Caitlin Boyle is a Volume One contributor.