I. Interview

II. “Until You Remember the Bills

 

Linda M. Crate

IH: First of all, maybe you could tell us a little (whatever you’re comfortable with) about where you work, and in what part of the country.

LC: I work in a convenience store/gas station in Northwestern Pennsylvania. I am a food service shift manager so I’m usually working food service, but there are times where I am scheduled on registers or hop up front to help on register. 

 

How has your daily shift changed since COVID-19? How has your experience of work changed?

Things are a bit slower at the store than usual, however, on nice days I have noticed that we have a lot of customers as if nothing has changed. We were supposed to have hours to close down the store for the protection of ourselves and our customers, but they opted to keep us open twenty-four seven because of a tax cut. 

I now wear a face mask at work as I come into contact with a lot of customers. We also have to fill out the order forms for customers, and they all seem irritated that they cannot fill out their own order slips. They’re also annoyed by the barrier put into place for our protection in food service which they’re asked to stay behind while ordering.

 

What’s the mood like among your coworkers?

Disgruntled, anxious, irritated. Four people have already quarantined themselves, and we’re working short-staffed. I had to pull a partial double this week and another employee pulled a full double because some of our coworkers are using this virus as an excuse to call out whenever they don’t feel like coming into work. 

 

Do you feel supported by the corporation your store belongs to?

Not at all. I feel like they’re more interested in money than investing in the safety and well being of their employees. They say they care, but I feel actions speak louder than words. 

 

How seriously do shoppers take the threat? How has their behavior changed over time?

I don’t think many of them take the threat seriously. A lot of them keep telling me that this virus isn’t even real or it’s a political ploy. They seem to think their constitutional rights are being trampled on by anyone asking them to stay inside.

They are extremely rude and even more ignorant to us than usual. They drag out their entire families just to grab one or two things. 

I’ve only had one person thank me for being there since this whole outbreak began.

The majority don’t seem to care about the threat or don’t take it seriously, as I mentioned before. It’s just exasperating to keep coming into work when you don’t feel valued by either your company or those that shop there. 

 

Do you wear PPE? If so, where did you get them? Care to talk about your general feeling of safety/risk while at work?

I have a few face masks because my aunt made them for me. We were supposed to get masks through work, but they never came.

I also wear gloves, always. Even when I work the register. 

 

What could the average grocery store shopper do to make you feel more at ease/safe at your job?

Be mindful and remain behind the barriers, stay behind the plexiglass dividers and not try to talk around them – my greatest fear is being on register and someone coughing and sneezing on me because there are huge gaps in the plexiglass that make the fact that it’s there pretty useless.

Just respect us and be patient. We’ve never worked through a pandemic before, we’re stressed, and we’re having bad days, too. We’re doing the best we can. We need money to pay our bills, yes, but that doesn’t mean we’re there to be subjects of your ire and abuse.

Respect company policies. We’re always going to need to see an ID for alcohol purchases, and we have to type in a birthday for everyone purchasing cigarettes. Our policy is to card anyone that looks under forty so please don’t be a brat if we ask to see identification.

Just be nice. Really, that’s all you need to do. Get what items you need and then get out. There’s no need to loiter or make several trips into the store a day. 

 

The news reports the emergence of strikes among fast food workers and others because of insufficient protection for employees. Is this something you are seeing or hearing about in your workplace?

Not yet, but I can see it happening. I’m not happy with the way our company is handling things, and I’m sure that there are others out there that are unhappy. If we keep losing employees due to people quitting or just deciding to quarantine, I can definitely see people protesting our company even being open.

 

Many of us are having a hard time at the grocery store these days, especially in places where people don’t respect the CDC’s recommendations. How do you feel about the shoppers you see who don’t wear masks, don’t stay six feet away, etc?

It really irritates me. I wish people would take this threat seriously, and instead of seeing it as an insult to their rights to be out; see it for what it truly is. If we social distance and are able to keep this disease at home, eventually it will have no choice but to die. By running around and going wherever you want you not only risk your own health but the health of everyone else.

It’s not just about you and your life, but about the lives of everyone you come into contact with. Just because you think you’d be able to win against this disease doesn’t mean you would, and what if you become an asymptomatic carrier and end up killing someone you love? You wouldn’t feel guilty then? I just think everyone needs to practice safety, social distancing, and stay at home whenever possible. 

 

Are there any policies for enforcing quarantine shopping rules? Do grocery employees tell people who aren’t following the guidelines to stand farther apart from each other, wear a mask, etc?

I’m not sure if companies are allowed to do anything legally, I would have to check into that. We recommend people follow the guidelines from the CDC, but there are always going to be people who think the rules don’t apply to them.

I have asked a few people to stand behind the barrier when working food service, and thankfully they were respectful enough to do so. Although some roll their eyes or get mad at us if we ask them to step back. 

One of our security guards on the second shift is good about reminding people about standing six feet apart. I’ve noticed that on the first shift customers are generally good about standing away from each other without prompting. 

 

Do you have any advice for those of us who are suddenly freaked out by going to the grocery store?

Wash your hands, only come out when you need something, wear a mask and gloves if you are able to find them or if you own any, stand six feet away from others, and be sure to use proper hygiene when you get home. 

Also touch as few surfaces as possible especially when you’re wearing gloves because germs travel very quickly. Touching your face, your cell phone, and your shopping cart is neither safe nor sanitary. So please be as careful and safe as you can possibly be.

If you are older, maybe have someone shop for you? I just get scared when I see older people out and in shops because I just want them to remain safe. Your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, sisters, and brothers all want you in their lives for a long time. 

Just be careful and do your best to stay safe, I think that’s all any of us can do. 

 

I. Interview

II. Until You Remember the Bills

 

Until You Remember The Bills

Linda M. Crate

 

even after a four year old caught covid-19

in my county people are still dragging their kids out into the store

even when they’re only buying one or two things,

and i wonder if these people realize they’re not only putting

my coworkers and me at risk but their own families;

they cannot be so foolish that they do not see people are

dying from this—

& yet the other day one looked me dead in the eyes and said:

“i think this is political”, and all i could do was blink;

surrendered speechless by the absurdity of such a statement

as if a virus gives a damn about politics or who gets elected

like it would discriminate against someone for any reason—

we’re all in this together

so please stop being so selfish,

only go out if you need something and not simply because

you’re bored or want to visit someone at their job;

we’re all struggling to keep afloat here—

i am praying every day i don’t get this virus or don’t transmit it to anyone,

and when your corporation and customers don’t give a damn if you live or die;

it is hard to risk your life and health for such a thankless job

until you remember the bills.

 


 

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