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Gender: Male
Hometown: Maryland
Member since: Sun Aug 17, 2003, 11:39 PM
Number of posts: 77,366

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Grocery Work and the Coronavirus

As some here may know, I work as a night-grocery clerk. It's the end cap to over 35 years working in retail grocery - from front-end management, to produce, to dry goods. I work in suburban Md. at a splinter of one of the larger food chains (not prudent or allowed to mention which one), and I'd like to share some of my experiences and concerns surrounding this coronavirus outbreak.

First of all, I've felt this thing was coming right at me from the start. I'm the better part of 59 years-old, and I have a serious asthma condition which is managed pretty well by a twice-a-day Symbicort puffer. I haven't experienced waking up gasping for air for years now, the persistent rattle in my chest is gone, and I'm hoarse most of the time, but breathing deeply and easily with the medication.

That hasn't eased my constant fear of catching so much as a cold, all the more afraid of catching a flu or virus bug, and I mentally monitor my breathing 24/7 out of fear of returning to the state which brought me to the brink of breathlessness in the emergency room several times in the past.

Yet, here I am, now an 'essential worker' in a job which has never offered much in the way of thankfulness for my commitment to the community in the past. With the temporary $2 an hour (temporary) 'hero' raise granted by the company a week ago, I've been elevated to the rank of soldier in this virus war. I mentally pull myself together every night, don one of my scrounged up masks, and head into what I'm convinced is a virus pit, of sorts, with scattered and inconsistent protocol against infecting ourselves and others.

Initially, our family spent day after day worrying about what we believe is a pretty good chance of getting the infected with the virus. Then we got proactive and decided we would be less potential victims by arming ourselves against our daily battle with our concealed, camouflaged foe. My wife was tasked with making masks from a pattern on the internet, personal and home cleaning supplies were stockpiled, and strategies were developed among us for waging our daily battle. It eased a lot of the worry to prepare for the worst and substitute our despair with defiance.

Until a couple of days ago, my workplace was mostly devoid of folks wearing face masks, and very little adherence to safety measures like wearing gloves. In fact, I was the ONLY night crew member wearing a face mask for weeks. That was before the store made face masks mandatory, and began providing one a night for workers just 2 days ago. Flimsy plastic gloves are available, but workers aren't required to wear them (yet).

We have a crew of about seven, with about five of us working together in a night. One of the tasks is unloading and separating large pallets of product to put on shelves, and two to three of us are required to cluster together to accomplish this. No matter how many times that I suggest we separate tasks, our crew manager has been unable or unwilling to make it happen, so we gather together every night and perform our risky endeavor.

It's basically human nature which has prevented us from separating our workload to distance ourselves from each other like the numerous signs around the store exclaim and counsel we should. To be clear, no one has shown any signs of infection, but you'd need to suspend all reasoning to imagine that we're risk-free. None of us know where the others have been all day, and there's just no accounting for anyone's state of health. Yet, we all gather together every night in this crap-shoot, Russian-roulette of a mission challenging the odds one of us might get sick and infect the others.

We talk about this almost all night. As I mentioned, we only got masks a couple of days ago, and although everyone is masked-up today, there's still been too many breaks in our virtual chain of safety to erase our fears, and more the rub, that inconsistency and carelessness is being brandished by some as a badge of pride in self, like the virus was some sort of personal fight that can be fought and won solely through the power of will (or political ideology).

There's a glaring political tinge to the ones openly defying the protections offered and mandated against infection in the store. To a person, the ones in the store resisting (and in some cases, still refusing to mask-up) are low-information, self-identified conservatives who are, no doubt, following the lead of the evolutionarily-deficient politicians and pundits who have adopted this earth-shattering denial that threatens all of us in this crisis with their ignorant flaunting of basic rules and protections.

Indeed, the level of their ignorance can be traced to their deliberate refusal to acknowledge *facts* about the dangers their inaction and negligence can pose to themselves and the people who surround them. Simply put, if you're a staunch follower of republican politics, you are ostensibly the danger all of us sheltering ourselves against this virus fear.

In fact, the actual manager of the store has openly lamented about the 'senior' hour afforded twice a week in the early morning for older folks at-risk to avoid the regular crowds as 'discriminating,' worrying out loud about 'what if we said blacks could come shop early.' Yeah, he's a winner. He also complained to one dept. manager that the entire virus event was a 'hoax,' causing that associate to read him the riot act about a family member who had actually died from the coronavirus.

Having folks in charge who follow the political chicanery of the republican party like cult-members has been one of the most insidious challenges we've faced in confronting the risks. It's my opinion that those people should be avoided like the plague, seriously. Is there anything more confounding than someone who gets their info from Trump, or one of the republican mouthpieces, in a position to direct of affect the health and safety of others?

It's literally been one of the most infuriating things about what we're facing. Idiocracy reigns in American today, and we're not going to get a handle on this crisis unless we get control over these misinformed (and misinforming) demagogues trying to hold onto their dominance over the nation. We are almost undone by their aggressive ignorance.

So goes the virus war here in Md.. It was a relief to see our governor finally mask-up, but you just know that if this republican is suddenly taking precautions they resisted for weeks, then there's something really bad coming down the pike, not to mention all of the danger they have ignored in the critical days lost politicking the virus.

None of the four members of my family in my home can afford to shelter-in-place to the extent that most of the community has for about a month now. Three of us work retail and two of us work grocery. Going to work literally feels like going into a war zone for us all, every time a bit more fearful than the last. Not the vulnerability and fear health workers must experience in every waking hour, but still palatable anxiety about the dangers and risks from this invisible, opportunistic assailant; for ourselves, and for others. I'm a bit more hopeful, but still fearful that the worst is yet to come.
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