Thursday March 26th 2020
Alarm goes off. Swipe Right for Snooze on my Phone.
5:35am – 6:35am
Alarm goes off again. I rise and start my getting ready for work routine.
First, I head to my bathroom. Wash my face. Put on my moisturizer, sunscreen, and deodorant. Get dressed in the outfit I laid out last night. Take my daily meds and a Vitamin C. Have breakfast. Today is instant oatmeal with Milk because I forgot to prep something the night before. Grab my packed lunch. Set it and my phone in the foray, next to my keys, purse, transit pass and work door card. Throw my PJs into the laundry basket. All of which I manage to place in the contaminated area without crossing into it.
In the two weeks prior, I have adjusted my daily routines in response to Coronavirus. One adjustment was turning my apartment foray into a DIY decontamination zone. A reaction to my side job and means for transport. For both now involve increasing risk of exposure to COVID-19.
In my bathroom, which is next to the foray (now decontamination zone) I fix my hair, brush my teeth and put on my make-up. Before I enter the contaminated area, I make sure the rest of apartment lights are off.
After that, I enter the contaminated zone and put on my shoes, jacket, hat and scarf. The only outer layers I wear outside. Items that never cross the contaminated zone. Same goes for my purse, keys, work backpack, sunglasses, transit pass and work door card. Of which, I put on or place in pockets. Same goes for my phone and packed lunch. I do a double check, making sure I have everything I need.
Ready, I turn off the foray light and head out the door.
6:35am – 6:42am
I lock my front door and head to the elevator. I use my elbow to press the down button. A recent practice of mine for door buttons and involves a slight squat motion.
The elevator arrives. Upon entering, I press the button for lowest floor and then the one for Close.
Reaching the floor, I exited out the back and walk down to my stop. On the platform, I tap my transit card and move towards the tram. Once again, I face another door button. It is lower height makes things even more awkward.
Before the tram takes off, I find a seat that secures social distancing.
6:42am – 7:02am
As the tram leaves, I read the text from my Roommate. They sent it last night, but I was already asleep by then. We are still amidst a conversation about Face Masks. As a Christmas present, my Roommate got their Mom some face masks. They spent the holiday together at our apartment. Yesterday, I messaged my Roommate on whether their Mom left any behind. If so, could I use some for work and where would the left masks be.
I asked them because most customers do not practice social distancing when they approach us. Many also don’t use the inside of their elbow when they cough or sneeze. Nor do they follow the recommendation to stop touching their face. I also asked because my Roommate has been gone for 2 weeks. Before things blew up Coronavirus wise in our state, my Roommate had gone up North to visit their family. I, along with others, convinced them to stay up there during all this. My Roommate is safer up there, then here in the city.
A lot safer with their family than they are sharing a space with me. Upon sending the question, I felt guilty and conflicted about my request. Until then, I had forgotten about my uncle’s circumstances. He is a doctor in another state and has been without a mask for a week. Guilt hinged on the question of why I should wear a mask when he doesn’t have any. My Roommate informed me their Mom gave them to their Aunt. The Aunt who lives only a couple blocks from our apartment. The same Aunt who is severely immunocompromised. My Roommate then added that they would arrange a way for their Aunt to get one to me.
On the tram, I texted my Roommate back on how I don’t need one as much as their Aunt. Not worry about it. Their Aunt should keep all of them. I will be fine. The latter statement becomes my mantra for the rest of the tram. I find my further guilt rising with the tightening of my chest.
7:02am – 7:06am
I exit the tram and see my connecting bus. I run to the stop and manage to catch it. As I approach the front door, the Bus Driver tells me I am to enter through the back door. I follow their instructions. I move towards the empty seats in front but the Bus Driver tells me to stop. They inform me I can’t move up any further. The bus leaves the stop and I take seat closest to me.
The seat is too close to other passengers than I like. I’m at least 3 feet away from them. Some experts have recommended such. Most say you need 6 feet for social distancing. From my seat, I ask the Bus Driver how I am to pay? I am to exit through the back door as well?
The Bus Driver apologizes, for the transit system had yet to put the new procedures signs on this bus. Drivers are now just pressing a button to count the passengers who get on. Not to worry about it. And yes, I am to exit the back door.
Close to my stop, I face another button. Before I get off, I thank them for the info and ride.
7:07am – 7:26am
I arrive at work and head upstairs to change into my gear. When I arrive, I head to the break room and use the sink to wash my hands. The ABC song is my twenty second timer of choice. Finding an empty locker to put my stuff in, I first remove two plastic bags from my backpack. In one bag is my work shoes. The other holds my apron, hat, and the sandwich Ziploc containing my notepad and pens. I switch my outer layers for my work gear. Then move my phone and Ziploc to my apron. Before I clock in, I send a Good Morning text to my SO. Sometimes they get to me before I get to them. A daily habit we have built in the time we have been dating. After I send the message, I use the bathroom to wash my hands once again. I then go downstairs and head on out to the store floor.
7:27am – 8:00am
Downstairs, I punch in and head to my normal department to check in with either my Manager or Assistant Manager. Searching the food preparation areas, I find my Assistant Manager speaking with a Co-Worker. I let them know that I am heading over to Produce as assigned. They give me a thumbs up.
This will be my second shift working in Produce. It has only been a few months since they hired me at this grocery store. My position, however, involved specialty food preparation and service. With the ordered closure of on-premises consumption services, the grocery store suspended my venue. As a result, so were my original duties. With the demand caused by panic shopping, Produce, Grocery, and Store Support needed extra hands.
I head over to Produce and find their Order Writer. I inform them I’m assigned to help Produce for the day. They thank me for the help and assign me a section display to fill up. I headed to Produce’s back area, snap on some nitrile gloves and filled up the spare stock cart. I roll back on the floor with 30 minutes left until the Store’s first opening. An hour for the Elderly, Immunocompromised and employees. My task to is fill what gaps I can before they arrived.
8:00am – 8:50am
The Store opens to the Vulnerable population. People have been waiting outside the doors. Thus arrives the flood of customers.
It is difficult to maintain social distancing. I am reminded of Matadors, but in my case, there are too many bulls in this space. Like a red muleta, a stocking cart only works with one at a time.
Maybe a better metaphor would the Waltz. It is a partner dance that requires cooperation and abiding by its requirements. One requirement of the Waltz is its holding position. One that involves a maintained distance between partners. If the steps and holding position aren’t followed, the dance doesn’t work. In consequence, someone is also likely to get hurt.
An example of this is when individual dancers become solely focused on getting their own steps right. As a result, they often forget to maintain their part in the holding position. And the lack of held distance often leads to stepping on their partners toes or worse.
In that hour, I found myself with many such partners.
Fortunately, by the hour’s end, I had stocked all the contents on my cart. With the remains, I found some reprieve in disposing the cardboard. However, when I found the baler, I found myself in a conundrum.
I didn’t know how to work it.
8:50am – 9:00am
To my relief, someone from the Grocery department arrived to dispose some boxes as well. I didn’t ask for their help nor if they could teach me how to use the baler. Let them go first and simply observed.
Because of the rapid changes and demands in reaction to COVID-19, there isn’t the time nor space for usual training. The store needs all the help it can get. To do my part, that means jumping into the water and teaching myself how to swim. Only asking questions when there was no way I can figure it out myself.
Finished with the baler, I returned to the floor to see what other displays needed stocking. Making a note, I returned to Produce’s back and filled my cart once again.
When I reached the floor, a customer approached me. They were wearing a mask I had only ever seen on construction workers. Their question was regarding a sale sign. Whether it was for the items on the left of the sign or the right. I pointed to the right. During our exchange of hand signaling, the space between us had shorten. I then thought I felt their bare hand graze my gloved one. Our interaction dissolved after that.
I moved to stock again but froze before my intended display. I started internally debate whether my glove did in fact touch the customer’s bare hand.
Or were they gloved as well? Did our hands even touch at all?
I could have been standing for a minute or an hour like that. I couldn’t tell.
When I came to, I rushed to the back, discharged my gloves and put on a new fresh pair. Because these days, it seems like you never know what the simplest act can turn into.
9:00am – 11:36am
I returned and found myself within the second wave of customers. Their arrival coming from the store’s opening for the general population.
I receive my first “Thank you for being here,”.
After that, my first “Excuse me, I just want to grab this one item. Is it all right if I move here to grab it?”
Both refreshing when the most common question I face, besides “Where is this item? and its variants, is now “Should I be panicking?”
It becomes so crowded that social distancing is impossible. Believing there is no way I can get out of it without violating social distance for others, I keep my head down and focus on stocking. Hoping out sight will keep the possible respiratory droplets in my vicinity out of mind. For the time being, at least.
Focusing on the works eventually helps. I find myself in a meditative flow, placing one item on the display after the other. After the wave of the second opening passes through, I finish the display in no time and move on the next.
This next display, I am directed to put the loose fruit in plastic display bags. One bag after the other, I think about how a month ago I would have found this to be problematic. Another layer of waste to the environment. Now I see a means to decrease potential spread. The multitude of hands that would have touched the fruit otherwise.
I then hear a squeal. Behind me, I find a young mother with a newborn and a toddler. They are picking out carrots. I catch myself thinking, “Why would she bring her baby to a place like this during a pandemic?”. But I realize I don’t know her situation. I am also not a medical professional. Therefore, it isn’t fair or right of me to make such a judgement.
I finish the bagged fruit display, and I find it is well past my usual my lunch break time. Putting my cart aside in Produce’s back, I let a Produce Co-Worker know I’m taking my 30 and head upstairs.
11:36am – 12:06pm
After using the restroom and washing my hands to the ABC song, I grab my packed lunch and head to the break room. I find the seating area blocked out with tape. A grid of 6 feet by 6 feet.
Seeing a seat maintaining such a distance, I settle down to have my lunch. I spend the rest of the time replying to my Roommate and SO. The room is a very quiet compared to Pre-Coronavirus.
With 6 minutes left, I get up and grab the sanitizing spray to wipe down my area. I put my lunch bag back in my locker and washing my hands before hitting the floor for the rest of my shift.
12:06pm – 2:48pm
I reach the floor and run into a Co-Worker from my department. With their food venue being suspended as well, they’ve been assigned to the Meat department. They joke about their excitement to handle raw cow and fish.
As we depart, I find Produce in a storm of customers. It reminds me of the lunch rush the store used to get. But that can’t be the case anymore. At least, that is the thought. Stay at home, unless it is essential. Give each other space to keep everyone safe.
I take my time stocking up my cart before going out on the floor. A tacit made in hope of the wave dissipating by the time I got everything I need. At least, to the point in which I can do my job and maintain social distancing.
My plan works. The crowd has moved on to other parts of the store. I refill my chosen display without interruption. For the most part.
I am asked one question by a customer who makes my day.
I didn’t have to maneuver one bit to maintain each other’s safety.
Returned to Produce’s back to grab additional stock and find some of my Produce Co-Workers. They are discussing Netflix shows they are watching. One adds that they are getting into films and tv shows about pandemics.
I remark on how the film Contagion is set in our area. Of how the home of the film’s patient zero is our home.
Some of my Co-Workers appear a bit unsettled by this.
One tells me they wouldn’t get bothered by it and ask if the film is good. I answer that I enjoyed it and thought it was a well-made film. But I hadn’t seen it since it was in theaters. On that note, I leave with fresh stock at hand.
As I refill the display, I observe a toddler starting a temper tantrum. I start feeling jealous of the kid. Imagining how satisfying it would be to just scream and rage like. Here and now, right on the floor. About COVID-19 and the situation it has put all of us. All to my heart’s content.
But I can’t.
Not that I think I’ve grown out of tantrums or learned better. In fact, I believe the opposite. Not just about myself, but everyone. We will always be capable of having tantrums. No matter what we tell ourselves.
Especially as adults.
I say I can’t, because, more than ever before, it is not worth it. The momentary gratification over the stakes at hand. Not if we want to get out of this with as little damage as possible.
Though we live the Era of Virality, COVID-19 seems to make everything highly contagious.
I finish and dispose my empty boxes in the baler. This time fully confident in my ability to do so.
I come back to the floor, and the displays are in rather good shape. I look for sections to fill. In the time being, I straighten a display gone awry. However, soon find myself both distracted from my search and task. In my proximity, there is a customer who looks as if their lower half belongs to a 70s surfer and their top is in an 80s ski video. For a moment, I find myself fascinated and highly amused.
After they leave, I realize it may be time for me to take my 15.
2:48pm – 4:06pm
For my break, I sit in the break room and check my texts. After washing my hands, I find a message from my SO. They inform me of their recent trip to a different grocery store. In which, another customer yelled at my SO for using hand sanitizer. Accusing my SO of hoarding hand sanitizer. The Cashier, scanning my SO’s groceries, was also witness. While observing, the Cashier was trying to hold it together and not laugh.
With a few minutes left, I reply asking my SO if they are ok.
I then get up to sanitize my area and wash my hands once again.
Back on the floor, I see most of the produce displays are filled. If not, they are being filled. I decide to straighten one of the sale displays. Mostly because their placement holds the most space for maneuvering.
The sale display I chose is nothing but remains. A former pyramid structure of a singular fruit. Due to the fruit’s particular curvature, reconstructing the pyramid becomes more difficult than I’d presume. Proceeding with the task at hand, keep reminding myself of triangles. Its the only thing I know of civil engineering and thus make it my mantra.
Out of nowhere, I find myself craving box Mac n’ Cheese.
Despite some tumbles here and there, I succeed in this recreation. Leaving my Fruit of Giza, I head to Produce’s back and discover it is past the end of my shift. After informing a Produce Co-Worker of my leave, I snap off my gloves and head upstairs to change gear.
4:07pm – 5:00pm
Upon switching from work gear to outside gear, I head down with my backpack in tow and clock out. Out on to the floor, I head to the pasta aisle and find it is 95 percent barren.
Serpentining to keep 6ft from browsers, I keep my fingers crossed that the general population has left some goods for us Celiacs. Reaching the end, there are few left. The boxes are accompanied by a sign noting rationing. I now crave my Mom’s Tuna Casserole. I grab a box of Mac n’ Cheese and regular GF Pasta.
I find a register without a line. A Cashier I am familiar with rings me up. They ask how my day is going. I inform them it was a decent one, considering. Their body looks drain. Yet, their eyes are also wound up. I wonder if I appear the same.
Continuing our small talk, the Cashier responds in the same. They also note of being glad to wear gloves.
Outside, I catch my connecting bus soon enough.
The tram is a different story.
With the reduced service schedule, the platform doesn’t look any different from Pre-Coronavirus. Unlike the mornings, the platform also grows in number. Multiplying with the count down to the tram’s arrival.
The tram reaches the station, and the inside is worse than Pre-Coronavirus times. I face the choice of taking a reserved disability seat to maintain social distancing or breaking social distancing to keep the seat open. I take the seat. As the tram leaves, I tell myself that I chose the potential safety of many over the potential need of one. My internal justifications are ineffective in easing the queasiness of guilt.
I text back to my SO. A nice, if only momentary distraction.
After a few stops, an Older Rider enters the tram. Their gait bears clear struggle. I get up and offer them my seat. As I move, the Older Rider takes my former one. There is no longer adequate space for social distance. A standing spot by the door is the best I can do.
From what I estimate to be three feet, another rider begins shooting lougies. Like bullets straight from his mouth to the ground. The Older Man then drops pieces of their new phone on the floor.
As the Older Rider picks them up from the floor, I freeze.
It’s a familiar cold that overcomes the superficial of your physical self.
Prior to this, it was a phenomenon I experienced upon sensing proximity to physical violence.
Or the potential of such.
But instead of feeling a coinciding increased heart rate, I didn’t know whether I was about to puke or cry.
For the rest of the trip, I remain frozen.
5:00pm – 5:45pm
With my meds ready for pick up, I was more than happy to get off a few stops earlier. The pharmacy only a few blocks away from the platform. The fresh air and clear sky sun felt like a cleanse to my skin and lungs, a pleasant sensation that supported wishful thinking.
I arrived and discovered the pharmacy’s doors are locked. From the other side of the glass, I watched the Technician approach. Unlocking the door, the technician informed me that entrance depended on my answers to the following questions.
One – am I experiencing or recently experienced a fever, cough, sore throat, and/or rash?
Two – Have I been exposed to anyone who has or is suspected of having COVID-19?
Three – Have I traveled outside the country in the last 14 days? Particularly in Europe or Asia?
Answering no to all three, the Technician granted me access. Together with the Pharmacist behind the counter, the Technician apologized for the procedures. I told them there was no need for an apology. I chuckled and added that I wished they did it at my work. As the Pharmacist prepared my prescriptions, they asked about my employment. After explaining that I worked at a grocery store, we exchanged our experiences of being essential workers during this.
We also discussed articles we read on other essential workers. News on the differences between grocery chains. How they treated their employees during the pandemic and their prevention procedures. Posts on the number one question that interviewees will now ask potential employers. The question on how the potential employer responded to the pandemic.
With my meds good to go, I thanked them for the service and help. They, in return, shared the same with me.
Departing from the pharmacy, I walked the rest of the way home. For as long as I could, I wanted to carry the ease from those moments. Traversing the barren sunlit streets of downtown, I accepted that the tram was no longer safe passage home.
5:45pm – 6:15pm
Entering my apartment, I begin what I call my decontamination process. In the contaminated area, I, One, set aside my keys, purse, and phone. Two, hang up my backpack and coat. Three, strip down until all I am wearing is my socks. Four, place my removed work gear into my backpack and dispose the other garments into the laundry basket. Five, remove and dispose one sock at a time. With each removal, step the newly bare foot into the uncontaminated zone. Six, enter my bathroom and thoroughly wash my hands. Seven, using the nearby cleaning spray and paper towels, decontaminate all areas of the bathroom I had touched upon entering. Eight, take a thorough shower. This involves intense scrubbing with a soap bar.
Nine, upon completion of bathing, dry off with the fresh hanging towel.
Ten, toss the used towel into the laundry basket in the contaminated area and head to my room to change into fresh clothes.
Another Pandemic routine I have added to my repertoire.
6:15pm – 8:30pm
Dressed head to toe in PJs, my stomach rumbles. Upon the stark signal, I decide to go with the Tuna Casserole. Not having made this dish in some time, I find it is taking longer than I expected. Or longer than I want it to be or perceive it to be. Low body fuel and accurate temporal assessment do not equate. The further into the process, the more I regret my dinner choice.
I check my phone to find a text from my Roommate. They just learned of being let go from their job. I send my condolences, empathy, and offer of support. From here it is the only thing I can think to do for them. My Roommate notes not to worry. They are applying for unemployment. If that does not work out, they have got sufficient savings.
I’m not worried. For either of us. About money, at least.
From our apartment application process, I learned my Roommates savings are more than enough. As for myself, the demand for my current labor means my job and employment aren’t going anywhere. For the Pandemic time being at least.
My pondering on such privilege is then interrupted by the timer for the pasta.
Upon the casserole’s completion, I slap some into a bowl and head to the couch.
Before me, I joined by one of my favorite post-work dinner companions – Netflix.
Tonight’s entertainment is Schitt’s Creek.
Finishing the pilot, grab myself some cookies I made the other night and question how the Roses would fair in COVID-19.
After a couple more episodes, I unstick myself from the couch and drag myself to the kitchen. There I clean up the remains of dinner making. I also set aside some casserole for lunch tomorrow.
As I move on to doing the rest of my prep for tomorrow (i.e., laying out my outfit for tomorrow, hang fresh towel etc.), I receive a new text. My Roommate asks me to take care of their plants for the time being.
I remind them I will do such to the best of my abilities.
Not that I won’t do it. Nor will I forget. It is just that where most people have a semblance of a green thumb, I possess two black thumbs of plant death.
No matter how hard I try, they always seem to die.
Remembering my Roommate saying that plants do better when you talk to them. I go over to the Orchid and Air Plant and proceed to apologize for their impending time under my care.
8:30pm – 9:30pm
I begin my nightly routine, one of the few of my daily habits that hasn’t changed since the pandemic. First, floss and brush my teeth. Second, apply my nighttime skincare. Just face wash and then a cream. Third, settle into bed.
After this, I would do some reading. Either of a book or from some web surfing. I grab the phone and find my Dad is calling me.
Upon answering, he states that he was just watching Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta interview Bill Gates. It reminded him of me, and thus he decided to call. He asks how my writing is going. If work is performing the right measures to protect me. I inform him my writing is coming along, not as fast as I would like, but it is going. I realized the piece I am working on needs some major restructuring. As for work, they are doing everything they can. My co-workers and bosses are respectful, and cognizant of everyone’s safety. All of us are adhering to the CDC’s recommendations and more. From what I heard, our grocery store and chain are doing a lot better than others in that regard. As of this week, I now have an official letter from work to show to officials when they inquire about my travels.
My Dad tells me he is happy to hear that. I also learn that my brother has a letter from his work too. It surprises me they would still have anyone at my brother’s work come into the office. Considering the State both my parents and my brother live in.
I ask my Dad how he is doing. He tells me it has been hard not to be able to travel for his work. But his labor is also considered essential to the infrastructure, so he is good in that regard. His back still hurts, but amongst a pandemic, it is not worth visiting a doctor for. Other than that, he is healthy and well.
My Dad hands over the phone to my Mom. She tells me about the virtual cocktail session she had with her girlfriends, which was fun. But her work, on the other hand, is becoming incredibly stressful. She contributes it to everything now happening on telecommunication conferencing. Especially with how many people her one particular case involves.
She also recently received a grocery delivery and is very excited to have vegetables in the house.
My Mom then asks me how I am doing, and if I am still seeing my SO. I tell her I am well, outside the increased stress of my job, and answer yes to her second question. My Mom coos, for she is glad about the latter. She remarks that with everything happening, it is still important to have someone in which to have human contact with.
After we say good night and give one another our love, my Mom hands the phone back to my Dad. Again, he reiterates that he wants to make sure I am safe and feel safe. Also, if I need anything, he is always there. And again, I inform him that work is doing every they can, and I am doing everything I can to keep myself and others safe. Before we hang up, I tell him I love him. My Dad does the same and adds a “Good Night Sweetie.”
9:00pm – 9:30pm
Instead of reading, I decided to listen to some music.
Gustav Holtz’s The Planets by The London Philharmonic.
Once I reach the beginning sweep of “Saturn – The Bringer of Old Age” I find myself drifting off with the song. I hold out for as long as I can before turning it off.
Before I switch off the light, I check both the alarm and battery of my phone.
With everything good to go, I close my eyes and am done for the night.
Friday March 27th 2020
Alarm goes off. Look to my phone, and find I missed my SO’s text by a minute last night. It is too early.
Swipe Right for Snooze.