Reflections of a Grocery Worker

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Reflections of a Grocery Worker

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This photograph is a selfie photo from my time working at my local grocery store in Wakefield, Rhode Island, USA. I don't have many photos from this period that reflect the pandemic and my memories of it, but this photo represents the early days as the USA first began to adopt masking after the CDC realized that non-symptomatic spread was happening. Experiencing the pandemic through the lens of a grocery store was very interesting. It was a unique perspective for understanding different people's anxieties and doubts around the pandemic. It was also a strenuous place to be during the pandemic, having to constantly adapt to supply chain issues, worker shortages, and the mental strain of working in a likely unsafe environment.

About a month into the pandemic I was asked to move from my home department of prepared foods, and help the grocery-stocking staff catch up with the unpredictable shipments coming in. Shortly after that, I was moved over to the front of the store to help keep count of the people in the store and encourage customers to use masks/hand sanitizer. I remember being met with a wide variety of gratitude, skepticism, resistance, and more--even including a lecture on covid as a conspiracy! At times, this role brought me anxiety as I saw news stories of door-people and security guards being killed or harmed for asking visiting customers to wear a mask.

In a weird way, when I left my job to attend grad school at UMass Boston, I felt a bit of suvivor's guilt. Whenever I come home to Rhode Island, I hear that the folks at my old store continue to struggle even over a year deeper into the pandemic.
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This item was submitted on February 23, 2022 by Asa Peters using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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