COVID-19: A Day in the Life of an Essential Worker

Friday, June 19, 2020
Sharon Mccutcheon Ju40ga2udma Unsplash

April 23, 2020

7:00 AM

My alarm is going off. Third alarm of the morning. Who can actually get up to their first alarm? I roll over and stare at the ceiling for a while before pulling myself from my bed. I start my makeup, dramatic eyes. I don’t worry about lipstick because no one can see it under my mask anyway.

8:00 AM

Makeup is finished. My dog, Leo, follows me down the stairs as we go to get my clothes from the laundry room. My “outside” shoes sit in the laundry drying from my mother sanitizing them the night before. I grab my work clothes from the dryer. It’s a little annoying having to wash them every day, but I like that they’re nice and warm every morning. I set my clothes down on top of the washer as I realize I’ve forgotten to feed Leo. I dump some food in his bowl, grab my clothes, and head back upstairs. I walk through the living room. My father has the news turned on. They’re predicting 71,000 cases by the end of April just in the St. Louis area. I try to ignore it and continue up to my room. I turn on my TV and open my laptop. I only get a small amount of free time now, but I have a lot of schoolwork to do. My Government class, once an arena of lively discussion, has become a mix of binary code and questioning what I’m actually supposed to be doing. I quickly look through the websites listed on the assignment and type up a few quick responses to the proposed questions.

9:00 AM

I quickly throw on my work clothes, grab my jacket and purse and head back downstairs, say goodbye to my parents and dog as he follows me to the door. I grab my shoes and step outside, putting them on in the garage before heading to my car. I hop into my car and set my purse down in the passenger seat next to the Clorox wipes and medical masks. I have a fabric mask, but I’m a forgetful person so I have backups.

10:00 AM

Work starts. I’m running a little early, so I run through Dunkin Donuts and grab some coffee. The drive-thru worker holds out a tray with the coffee on it instead of handing it straight to me. She sports a mask and gloves. During a pandemic, you can’t take any chances. My coworkers and I have to park in a public parking lot about a quarter of a mile away from our store. The store lot tends to fill up as we are asking people to wait in their cars since we’re only allowing 3 - 4 customers in the building at a time. Before we open the store, we do our usual opening duties: making sure displays and products are organized and visually appealing, making lists for inventory, etc, but also, now, wiping down all frequently touched surfaces: door handles, light switches, countertops.

3:00 PM

Our day moves quickly as there is never a moment without customers. My coworkers and I each slip away to the back room throughout the day for “working lunches”, but in reality, we’re grabbing meal replacements and small snacks to keep us going until we can eat real meals after work. Customers come in wearing all different forms of face coverings: paper medical masks, hand-sewn fabric masks, bandanas tied around their faces. I make jokes in my head that they just came back from robbing a bank. My manager yells at all of us hourly to take hand washing breaks whenever we can. I’m on phone duty fielding calls from customers about curbside pickup and whether or not the store is open during “all this stuff”.

9:00 PM

We close the store and have our daily meeting going over new tasks and other ways we can improve the store. My coworkers and I all walk to our vehicles alone. I enjoy the drive home, listening to my music as loud as possible. I run through the only fast food place left open this late and grab some dinner. I eat in my car. If I had brought it home, it would’ve been cold by the time I finished my nighttime routine. I pull into my driveway and realize the garage is shut. I call my mother to open it, so I can come inside. My bathrobe and towel are sitting on top of the dryer waiting for me. I drop my purse on the ground and take off my shoes. I don’t get to go upstairs and rest. I head straight for the shower to “wash off the Coronavirus” as my brother says. I throw my work clothes in the washer, and finally, head upstairs.

10:00 PM

I attempt to do homework as my heavy eyes fight to stay open. I eventually fall asleep on top of my laptop and textbooks, wondering if this is our new normal or if we’ll ever go back to the old normalcy. I ache to see my friends or have time to spend with my family. I never thought about how far six feet apart was until now.


June 3, 2020

7:00 PM

            I sit at work, watching the people walk in and out, and in and out. Some wearing masks, bandanas, face coverings of some sort; some not. It’s weird to think about how just a few weeks ago, no one was outside. Everyone was locked up inside their houses, scared of the world, using hand sanitizer religiously and hoarding toilet paper like all the trees had been destroyed and it would never be made again. I remember the feeling of sitting at home and feeling like I was suffocating. I remember not being able to see my friends. I think about how much quarantine made me feel alone, but I also think about how much it made me appreciate little things like going on late night drives with friends and screaming along to music at the tops of our lungs or walking around Target staring at clothes we’re never going to buy. I’m going to spend more time enjoying these good, little things and spend less time worrying about what bad things could potentially happen in the future.