This column is part of a series of reflections from Broadview staff about the coronavirus pandemic.
Some people spend their Sunday mornings at church. Up until last week, I spent mine scanning barcodes and bagging items.
I used to be a cashier at a drugstore. I started when I was 18 — it was my first job out of high school — and returned to it when I came back to Canada after a year abroad. Even after starting at Broadview, I wasn’t ready to let it go. The extra cash was nice, sure, but I had gotten attached to the people I saw every weekend.
You might think that since cashiers see tons of customers, we don’t really notice them. But I knew my regulars — the newspapers they read, the goods they picked up every week, the lottery games they preferred — and we played a part in each other’s Sunday routine. If someone didn’t show up to grab their usual items, a small part of me worried about them.
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The routine went off the rails as the COVID-19 crisis escalated across the country. One week, everything felt normal. The next, I was talked into wearing gloves while I scanned items and took money, my hands sweaty and uncomfortable inside the latex. On my last shift, green tape on the floor tiles illustrated how far apart customers should stand.
People changed in how they addressed me, too. They wanted to know my name, thank me for coming to work, ask me if they could do anything to make me feel less at risk. Customers were chatty; the opportunity for social interaction was too strong to be denied.
“Be safe,” they told me as they gathered their bags.
“Take care,” I responded earnestly. The once-rote phrase took on a new significance for me. I meant it, every single time.
I put my two weeks’ notice in before we knew how the coronavirus would upend our lives. It was time to say goodbye to my safety net. But I’ll be thinking about my former co-workers, who are still smiling and chatting with the public, maintaining a degree of normalcy in a strange new world. And to my regulars, those friendly faces I spent my Sunday mornings with: know that I’ll be thinking of you all, too.
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