By Moriah Story
In the last issue of the Billboard, I wrote an article about what it’s like to work in a grocery store during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the few weeks since that was posted, the “new normal” has been altered yet again. At no fault of the grocery store itself, the time I spend there has become much more stressful than I believed possible.
Cashiers, like myself, are now required to clean the entire register and belt after every customer. All surfaces must be sprayed with disinfectant and wiped down to ensure that we are doing our best to keep germs from spreading. After only a few days of this, the skin on my hands began to peel from being in contact with the cleaner for hours at a time. Thankfully, the gloves I am provided now prevent this from continuing. But, my arms ache from wiping down the belt as quickly as possible and from heaving jugs and boxes across the register, trying to move customers through my line as fast as I can.
This disinfecting process causes the lines to be astronomically long at the checkout, because only one customer is permitted in each lane at a time. Long lines, unfortunately, result in a higher than average amount of disgruntled customers. I try to be as nice as possible to everyone I check out, because I’m the last employee they interact with before they leave our store (also, I generally try to be a good human), but sometimes this isn’t enough. I’ve been cursed at, snapped at and complained to. I’ve had people rudely toss their items on the belt and I’ve had people demand to speak with my manager. I understand that waiting in a long line, especially with fresh or frozen groceries, can be a cause of frustration. But scanning groceries for hours on end with no break isn’t always a fun task either.
And have I mentioned the masks? No one is permitted in our store without a mask covering both the mouth and nose. This is important both for customer and employee safety; I’m grateful that they are required. But wearing a mask for several hours straight is the epitome of discomfort. It’s hot; it’s hard to breathe and it makes hearing and understanding others much more difficult. As the lines get longer and the customers more frustrated, the added annoyance of cloth covering my face is unwelcome, to say the least. It’s hard for me not to laugh when customers complain to me about how hot and uncomfortable the masks are when they’ve been in theirs for twenty minutes and I’ve been in mine for eight hours.
Not all days at work are hard. With all of these new regulations, I’ve had many customers thank me for working or show concern for my safety. My coworkers and I are a strong team, tackling challenges every day and doing our best to support each other while serving the community. I am grateful to have a job, while so many other Americans cannot say the same. I know everyone has heard this repeated over and over; on the radio, on Facebook, on the nightly news. But as someone who shows up to a grocery store almost every day, ready to sweat and tire to make sure people have access to the items they need, I can testify that kindness goes a long way.
It would simply make my day if every customer was as pleasant as some that I’ve had in the past. I’m not asking for thank you’s or anything of the sort, because there are many healthcare employees that are working much harder, and risking much more, than I am. But a smile from everyone instead of an annoyed frown would make my shift infinitely less stressful. Thank you in advance for showing kindness to the front line workers in your own community.