An Essential Worker's Story

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: MIKE
IN PROGRESS. This is a redacted draft containing only the "most completed" parts. I honestly thought this would be long done by now but it's grown longer than I expected and continues to grow. Apparently there's a lot to say. Expected date of completion...???.

A story about the life of an essential worker in the time of coronavirus. Written for Booksie's story project "Life in the Time of Coronavirus".

This is the story of an essential worker in a grocery store. It is a true story. It is a story describing the actual experiences of a living, breathing (with some discomfort thanks to the mandatory face mask), thinking, feeling human being. It is being told not because he or his experiences are unique and deserving of special sympathy but rather because they are common and reflect the experiences, in general form if not specific detail, of hundreds of thousands of grocery store workers around the country.

Submitted: June 30, 2020

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Submitted: May 19, 2020

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With special thanks to Nikki for the encouragement.

 

It isn’t fun working in a grocery store when there’s a pandemic. Though to be fair, it isn’t fun working in a grocery store when there isn’t a pandemic either. There are good reasons to work in a grocery store. A steady paycheck and affordable health insurance among them. The entertainment value of dealing with temperamental customers and haphazard corporate policies isn’t one of them.

 

A few days later he sees a celebrity-posted meme thanking essential workers with grocery store workers at the top of the list. He feels a small burst of pride at the recognition. He feels the same small burst when customers thank him for working during this difficult time. The recognition and gratitude are nice, but he can’t help but wonder how many of these now incredibly grateful people will remember their gratitude once the crisis has passed and thing have gone back to normal and how many will go back to simply seeing grocery store employees and other so-called “essential workers” as “the help”.

 

Then, a week later, it finally happens. He gets sick. It starts with a stomachache and indigestion after dinner but he throws up as he’s getting ready for bed. He feels better afterwards though, and he isn’t running a temperature. Fortunately, he has the next day off. He’ll see how he feels in the morning and take it from there.

The next morning he throws up again and, after taking his temperature again, discovers that he has a fever of 100.5. He immediately makes an appointment to see his doctor later that day. At the appointment, he tells them his symptoms (vomiting, upset stomache, fever, lack of appetite) and they take his temperature again. It’s now 102.2. They take a throat and nasal swab to run two tests, one for the flu and one for COVID-19. The flu test comes back in a few minutes: negative. He doesn’t have the flu. Then…he feels exhausted. He goes home and takes a long nap. Afterwards, he spends the rest of the evening intermittently sleeping, watching TV and trying to call the store and let them know that he will be using some of his sick leave to self-quarantine until the test results come back. He gets automated responses until finally gets through around eleven o’clock at night. It’s not a good night. He sleeps sporadically, tossing and turning, waking up every few hours to run to the bathroom or trying to find a more comfortable, or at least significantly less uncomfortable, position to sleep. Somehow he also manages to tweak his back jumping out of bed on one of his bathroom runs.

The next morning though, he feels somewhat better. His back is tweaked and he still doesn’t feel like eating but the fever is gone.

The day after that his appetite returns. The test results also come back a few minutes before the doctor’s office closes: Negative. He does not have COVID-19. He’s relieved but there’s a part of him that is also disappointed. It feels strange to be even a little disappointed at receiving good news but he is. At least if he’d had COVID-19, it would finally be behind him. He wouldn’t have to continue to worry about being exposed it and exposing others to it. He would already have survived it. He would have immunity. Still, a negative test result is positive news. He calls the grocery store and lets them know that he will be available to work again the next day.

The next day he is back at work at the grocery store.

 

 


© Copyright 2020 M. C. Mueller. All rights reserved.

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