Commentary: I didn’t set out to be an essential worker

Andrew Alonzo, LV Life Editor
Andrew Alonzo, LV Life Editor

I never imagined my job would classify me as an essential worker. 

Usually grocery store workers hear “thank you” after helping someone find those hidden spices or something from the back. Now I’m greeted daily with “Thank you for helping everyone” during the current circumstances.

Since February 2019 I’ve been a store associate at Smart and Final in Diamond Bar. I like my job, the community I serve and the coworkers I’m surrounded by. It’s the routine: stocking the shelves, rounding up the carts in the parking lot, helping the usual customers and making the store look nice before I leave. 

Fast forward a year and the work has not changed, only the atmosphere.

I was recently asked if I’m scared of being outside, especially in such a high risk environment. The truth is, so long as I am doing 100% everything in my power –  wearing a mask and double gloving, plus washing my actual hands constantly – to ensure my lowest contact with potential infection and others do so too, I will be okay. 

The outbreak of COVID-19 has seen management set in motion social distancing rules in alignment with the state government. We placed a “face cover required for entry” sign on our only entrance and exit, taped six-feet markers in the checkout line and installed plexiglass face shields at each register. 

I’ll admit it’s not as cheery around the store because the pandemic has given people a reason to be scared. The masks make it physically hard to breathe, and knowing the risk of breathing my own carbon dioxide for 4-7 hours is not very reassuring either. But having a job, which allows me to help my family during these times is very rewarding.

All the safety measures coupled with a general sense of fear — it all takes away the human aspect. Every grocery store has its usual customers we recognize at a glance. Heck I’ve even run into Paul at Starbucks: I helped find coconut milk some months ago. With everyone now, we take the utmost precautions. 

That sense that silence is golden has never felt more eerily present. No doubt I like helping whoever needs help, especially our elderly community, but since the pandemic started, no one is taking any chances with interactions.

Reality is grim now. It is the thought of how anyone can be sick or how one interaction might cause us to bring it home to our families which scares me most of all. 

Thoughts just race throughout the back of my head. Did you get it? Did that dirty box give it to you? Could you have given it to someone? You should wash your hands again! 

At the end of the day, I do feel like I am truly serving the community- doing the best to keep our supplies stocked and families fed. All I ask in return is that you do everything in your power to keep yourself safe and your family safe.

Andrew Alonzo, a senior journalism major, is LV Life editor of the Campus Times. He can be reached at andrew.alonzo@laverne.edu.

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