Life Remains the Same: The Mindset of an ” Essential” Worker

April 12, 2020

While everyone is bored at home trying to be safe from the COVID-19 outbreak, those who continue to work may feel that their life hasn’t changed. 

For students, their lives may have changed on March 11, when Skyline College announced that campuses would be shutting down campuses in order to protect from the spread of COVID-19. The mornings may feel different, coming into class in pajamas, but the rest of my day seems normal. 

The following Monday, it was announced that businesses all over the Bay Area must now shut down, except if they are considered essential. I arrived at work at Home Depot Pro that Monday, and every customer came in a complete panic, buying every item in bulk they could possibly load on to their pickup truck. I looked around, and every manager and supervisor looked completely normal, as if everything that is happening in the news, or anything else in the outside world, was not happening here in the store. 

For the next two hours, customers kept asking, “Are you guys closing tomorrow?”, and I could not give an accurate response, because I did not have any idea of what was happening. Finally, three hours into my shift, I asked the first supervisor around, and he answered my question, telling me that we are in fact staying open because we are considered essential. Half of me wanted to sigh in relief. A lot of businesses that are temporarily shutting are not paying their employees, and if this were to happen, I don’t believe my job would have paid me. The other half of me was confused — If my workplace is not taking precautions, then maybe I shouldn’t either. 

Over the last week, my job slowly began to adjust to what was going on. The first three days felt like any normal day The same number of customers piled up at the registers, and the break room still felt dirty, as it’s always been. Finally, the first few sets of signs had been put up, telling us how to wash our hands. I continue to see a lot of touching the break room table, and people being in close contact. Luckily, I have my car to act as a break room. It was not until March 19 that the company finally decided to start closing the store at six o’clock that is a whole three hours less than we usually close. But it does not change the fact that everyone working in essentials is still working in fear.

Going to being paranoid on the products you touch and whether or not you are doing the right thing to stay clean. As of now, management is slowly adjusting to what they think is right for their employees by not providing masks, gloves, paper towels or even water for their employees. But following the rules is not enough to keep the paranoia out of the minds of employees. It has come to the point where we do not depend on management to help us stay clean and safe but it is now and every person for themselves type of thing.

Those who work in the essentials must think about themselves in staying healthy and hope they bring nothing bad to their homes. Essential workers are living in the life of a double edge sword where one side is living your life as normal as possible without getting sick or hoping that one day your job tells you to pack it up. It is just a fact we must live with all we must do is hope for the best of hope for the worse.

Chapter Two

On March 15 it was announced that all California businesses must shut down unless they are considered essential businesses. I was one of those essential workers.  After two weeks of being in quarantine The Skyline View published “Life Remains the Same: The Mindset of an “Essential” Worker,” which was how even though California is in quarantine, essential workers are not. Almost four weeks later life remains the same, work-wise, but mindset wise the stress is at an all-time high. 

The article left off with the job deciding to close three hours early and some signs on ways to thoroughly wash your hands. Since March 19 the workplace has completely changed. It really shows that nobody knows how to handle COVID-19 when they are working on the fly on how to handle the situation. The purpose of closing three hours early is so associates can use those hours to stock and sanitize the store. Restocking days go by because there is not much restock when not much is being sold. The sanitizing might not take three hours and the main thing being sanitized are computers and cash, which is understandable. The rest of the night feels the same when it comes down to closing, we sweep stock and throw away the trash. 

It is during work hours where all it all breaks loose. Before the store had three entrances and exits around the store due to circumstance now there is only one entrance and an exit. The amount of entitled customers who refuse to enter the safe way into the store is ridiculous. With what is happening in the world everyone is on high alert trying to stop the spread of COVID-19. In times where we need to come together, people will still put ego in front of them and believe they are entitled to skip the other patient customers in line for a box of nails. 

The rules for the number of customers that can be in the store change every day from 150 people to 100, now it is down to 75. It does not feel like there have been that many customers in the store. Some workers would feel claustrophobic and anxious when a customer comes in with no mask or they get closer than six feet. As for how the company has been treating its workers a lot of older workers have been sent home since they are more at risk. Workers have now been given 40 to 80 hours of additional sick time, for those who feel under the weather they can have two weeks off. We are now heading into week five of being essential workers but what happens after those two paid weeks. What happens to the older workers being paid for the amount of time they are missing. A lot of unanswered questions. Break rooms finally have one bottle of hand sanitizer, the same rough paper towels and some purple liquid used to sanitize tables or chairs. 

On Monday, April 6 our biggest fear happened when we were told that a fellow coworker was diagnosed with COVID-19. The manager involved telling the associates did not reveal the name but he did reassure us that the departments involved in the meeting were not in contact with the worker.  The person is now in quarantine, his department has been disinfected and his fellow co-workers have been tested. But should I really trust my company? I have nothing against my managers but did they make the right decision to go on with the show? The normal would think it is time to shut down the store. The fact they are deciding to keep the store open and simply tell us that we sanitized their section does not give a sigh of relief because things have not changed coming into work now, now someone has been diagnosed could not be great for my mind. The only thing that could help an essential worker every day is being grateful that they have a job and be healthy. I read signs all over the break room reading how great this company is but is it really? I am afraid to miss a day off from the epidemic because I am not sure that I will have an income if COVID-19 takes away my job. 

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