Day 1, Thursday, March 10th
By 9 PM, shelves were empty with the exception of a package of gluten-free quinoa spaghetti.
After my shift, I popped into CVS and bought 3 tubes of toothpaste, not because I was stocking up, but because I found a gem of a coupon amidst the noise of a lengthy CVS receipt; a 4 dollar discount on 15 dollars worth of Colgate toothpaste. I was excited to be the proud new owner of three 3.4 oz tubes.
As my new CVS receipt was printing, I scrolled through Twitter and saw a few Forrest Gump references. Why?
And then the storm hit:
A text from my mom, “Tom Hanks has coronavirus.”
A message from the CVS self-checkout, “if you have your extra care card please scan it now.”
A greeting from a guy I had rung up 15 minutes ago who was also at the CVS self-checkout bulk-buying toilet paper and probably realizing that I’m kind of hot outside of a depleted grocery in the midst of a panic, “Hey.”
I could sense that everything was about to change.
Day 2, Wednesday, March 11th
The CDC warned us to avoid crowds, but I walked into my grocery store and joined a large crowd of people brushing shoulders and breathing on each other's food.
I rang customers for about 3 hours until a 20-something-year-old man with, what I can only describe as “Wall Street energy,” asked me, “Is this the biggest cart you’ve ever rung?”
I loaded his cart with 6 paper bags of groceries and asked my manager if I could leave my register to stock groceries. We had some oranges left. It is citrus season after all.
Day 3, Thursday, March 12th
It’s the first day of my weekend. I plan to lay face down on my bed and not move.
Day 4, Friday, March 13th
It’s the second day of my weekend. My roommates are working from home.
I woke up and toasted some sourdough bread.
“Welcome roommates! To our apartment on a weekday afternoon!”
This is usually when I'd practice electric guitar on my beginner model Fender, but I opted to lie face down again.
Day 5, Saturday, March 14th
The most common customer quotes looped in my brain:
“Crazy in here, right?”
“When do you restock?”
“I’m not taking any chances.”
“I’ve never seen it like this.”
I rang up a nurse, stumbling on my words, I said, “uhhh must be crazy there, right?”
Day 6 Sunday, March 15th
A woman walks up to my register. We meet eyes. Her look tells me she may have seen me as human garbage before, but today she sees me as human contagious virus. I apply hand sanitizer to ease her stress.
The 6th pump in the past 10 minutes.
The dry dusted cracks on my fingers drink up.
“Clean us,” they whisper through a searing acidic shower. They cry a collective tear as a single blood drop forms between the intersection of my pinky and ring finger.
She proceeds to hand me a reusable grocery bag that’s never been washed.
Day 7, Monday, March 16th
They’re grouping grocery store employees in the same category as nurses and doctors. Will we all hang out once this is done?
A society essential; me.
Read that back…me.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve longed to be needed. Now I am the guardian of microwavable meals and affordable olive oil.
Unfortunately, my actor friend lost his job, my bartender and server friends can barely earn money, and almost every worker who works as hard as I do, but around items that aren’t dry pasta, canned beans, and toilet paper don't know what their next paycheck will look like. So that really sucks.
Day 8, Tuesday, March 17th
A customer bought a container of cut fruit medley. “It seems to have calmed down in here, yeah?”
“Yeah!” I say with a smile, “I think people are being advised to stay inside and only leave unless it’s absolutely necessary…would you like a bag?”
Day 9, Wednesday, March 18th
With our hours of operation on a reduced schedule, we have more time to stock shelves. I actually had an opportunity to goof off with a coworker. It seems our brains can only process supply and demand jokes, so we took a selfie in front of an empty toilet paper shelf. I laughed about it and posted it to my Instagram story.
Day 10, Thursday, March 19th
It’s my weekend again. I sent my mom a picture of a mug with the caption, “drinking coffee and staying inside.”
“That’s my girl,” my mom said and responded with a partial screenshot from an email she sent to her coworkers who are working remotely:
“Let’s share our tips and challenges and provide support to each other!
Today, I woke a bit later than usual, I showered, dressed, did my hair (no makeup LOL), I wore my badge during working hours and I prepared and ate my lunch away from my new working space.”
I poured out my coffee and decided to lay face down for a few hours.