Tuesday 28 April 2020

I am a Key Worker

This year has been absolutely crazy. I started off the year by paying off my overdraft (finally), and celebrating ten years together with my boyfriend. Just before we went away to New York, China had been broadcasting that a potentially lethal virus originated in Wuhan. We didn't know very much about this virus at the time, and there were no cases in either the UK or America, and airline companies only had warnings for people who had recently travelled to Asia or Wuhan directly. I was taking this seriously in January, and I'm taking it seriously now. I equipped myself with hand sanitiser everywhere I went, especially in public places.

I did not imagine that life would come to this. For over a month we've been in lockdown. I've lived through Bird Flu and Swine Flu, my mum even reckons that I may have caught a mild strand of swine flu. Back then, we were all still working and going to school, so the fact that on Monday 23rd March, a national lockdown was put in place was scary. I saw this coming, but seeing it at the same time as everyone else in the country; I had goosebumps.

Prior to this, when everyone was gossiping and spreading rumours because they know someone who knows someone, and "the military are getting involved" I knew that I was still going to have to work in a global pandemic. The past year has been tough for me, I've been working in the hospitality and retail sectors to pay my bills whilst I still try and work my way into my dream career. I never would've imagined that whilst people are self isolating and social distancing, that I was still stacking shelves in a supermarket where numerous members of the public come in each day. Of course I knew that during a lockdown a supermarket was going to be open in one way or another, people need food to eat. It was just really odd to be called a "key worker" and have a letter giving permission to leave the house in case I'm stopped by police.

I feel lucky (in a sense), that I am still able to go to work and earn my regular income. All of my previous jobs, retail or otherwise have ceased to let people work. I would've been out of work and essentially screwed if I was still in my last job, a zero hour seasonal role. I'm not someone who has existing conditions so I'm still healthy enough to work, let's ignore the fact that my immune system is shocking at the best of times. I've got a lot of friends around me who have begun to work from home, have been furloughed, and I know a lot of people who are completely out of work and who will be hoping to get that government grant in June. It's a strange time, to see that when the chips fall down which people still need to go to work to keep society moving.

I don't feel like a key worker. Yes, I turn up to work knowing the risks. I use my sleeves or feet to open doors, and sanitise and wash my hands regularly and before eating. We have social distancing measures in place, and have altered the times that customers enter the store. I work night shifts between 9pm - 7am, so I don't really see customers anymore which takes out part of the risk. However, it is a HUGE place to work. You have no idea who's touched something before you, if they are being as cautious as you.

Yet, I constantly know how much worse other people have it. Walking into a building where you know patients or people have Covid-19 symptoms, or confirmed cases. I have had friends and even strangers outside of my work thanking me, for what? I appreciate the sentiment but I'm just doing my job, which I'm grateful for. I imagine there are some people that work in the care sector and hospitals that feel the same, they signed up to a job they wanted to do - albeit take out the pandemic we're having and most of them probably enjoy it to some extent, or just want to do good and look after people.

I have had to watch as customers panic bought "essential" items, and changed their buying behaviours just because everyone else was buying those products. The sign says they can have five; so they will take five. It has been jarring to have been on the "front line" to that extent. Our company joining together with other supermarkets to Feed the Nation. Quite often I would feel anger towards customers for being selfish and acting like a herd of sheep. I had recently been making donations to my local food bank, and the minute the panic buying started I feared for what stock would be left for those less fortunate. When I had finished my ten hour night shift I'd make a list of the items I wanted to get for the food bank, and I even went home on a Sunday morning and came back at 9.30am to be able to get some toilet roll and hand wash. I could feel people look at me when I had five of each item, but I didn't care. I was doing this for others. I didn't care about myself, I wanted to help the community, and I wanted others to see that and do the same. I would walk around the store and each day the panic buying got worse, it would move around the aisles. As if customers couldn't get one thing, they would panic buy whatever else was available. It's taken a while for the store to keep up with the demand of customers buying multiples of EVERYTHING. People just didn't understand that they couldn't buy in lots of one product as they were trying to replenish everything, and customers would buy it all within seconds as soon as the store opened. Every time I saw more empty shelves, my heart sank for the vulnerable, the elderly and the less fortunate.

Luckily, the supply levels are doing much better now. I guess people realised they spent too much money, didn't have any more space in their house and that there was no reason to panic buy in the first place. Things aren't perfect, but an improvement. There's more online shopping available, and you would have seen the priority shopping times for NHS/Care Workers and elderly customers on the news. It's still an odd sight to see these customers start queuing at 7am when they can't enter the store until 7.30am/8am. Even though my local food bank had to shut due to lack of staff available to work, and they couldn't keep everyone safe. Acts of Kindness have been able to take donations from multiple drop off sites, and you can arrange collections. Through this, I have joined a few Facebook groups for my community for food banks and the homeless. If there's anything I can do to help, I will do it.

Through this crazy and horrible experience, I have learned what truly matters. I generally try to be a kind and thoughtful person, but I have made more of an effort. I reached out to friends, family and nearby neighbours. If they needed something I would get it for them, I had the opportunity to get things as soon as they came into the store (I just want to make it clear, I'm not taking advantage of my position, I would only buy the bare minimum so there'd be plenty left for other customers). As I had everything I needed, I wanted to make sure others could have what they needed. I check in on those closest to me, as some are self isolating I want to check how they are doing. It's a hard time for a lot of us, and I wanted to let people know if they need to talk to someone; I'm always here. It's important to talk to one another and message your friends and family, but considering it can be hard holed up and away from friends and family, we need to give people space to process and reply when they feel like it.

We lived in such a fast paced, instant and prejudiced society. Now that we've all had to slow down, we can really assess our behaviours. Everyone moves at a different pace, if you want to do home DIY projects then do it. If you want to binge watch TV and films, then do it. Do what makes you happy, and what makes you feel better mentally. We don't know how much longer lockdown has to go on for, but also how long certain restrictions and social distancing will go on for. I know people are getting impatient and frustrated, but for most people all you have to do is sit at home and protect others lives. We're all missing our old lives and our families, I don't know when I'll be able to see my mum and step mum and hug them again, as they both work in the NHS. Even though I still leave the house to work around four nights a week, I'm starting to go a bit Lockdown Loco.

I thought that this was an important topic to post on my blog, as I have been very private about my work life for the past year. I use this blog to talk about and document parts of my life, and well it would be a missed opportunity to not write about these crazy times. I also wanted to be honest with my readers about what I'm going through, but also to think about what other's are having to go through.

Please be patient, be kind and most importantly stay home.


  1. Well done! and well-written, Saff! Print this off and keep it. It is detailed and gives good insight to "Life amidst the Corona Virus Era," for someone much younger than you to read, decades from now. 'See' you tomorrow!

    1. Thank you Kay! I have a few more ideas in the pipeline around lockdown/coronavirus, and some more positive ones to try and give a bit of guidance to those who might be struggling. As well as many other posts that will be more of a "distraction" from the current situation, if people need to take their minds off things x

  2. Nicely put. It is amazing how some people will immediately think of themselves and to hell with anyone else. These sort of times show who is civilised and who is only pretending to be civilised. I recall in the 70s, when panic buying stripped all the shops of toilet rolls during the fuel crisis. The sad thing was that someone near us stored them in their bathroom and you could see the rolls stacked up inside their window, right to the top. It must have been dark inside, but the ironic thing was they were there for months after the panic ended and only gradually disappeared. They must not have bought any more toilet rolls for the best part of a year.

    1. Exactly Pete, it's been a weird year with "be kind" being thrown around earlier this year, to people fighting over toilet roll and essential items they wanted to stock pile. It really does show you the different sides to the human race. I'm surprised no one had robbed them of their toilet roll stash!

      Thank you x


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