One bright spot every day in this new retail reality is Senior Shopping Hour. Like most grocery stores in the area, we have set aside the first hour of the day for seniors and people in high-risk groups. Despite everything else going on, it is the best hour of my day.
I come to work every day with mixed feelings, few of them good. People who have worked with me know that’s not my usual thing, but nothing about getting to work is usual these days. Parking is easy, when it’s usually a fierce fight at 6 AM. When I walk, I used to see the city waking up and busses full of groggy people, now it’s pretty much just me.
Troubles start appearing in my mind the closer I get to work. As I walk the last block to work filled with worry about the health of me, my family and friends. I think about all the bad things that can happen when I get to work: How long will the wait to get into the store be today? Will customers be abusive to me or the line workers? Who won’t be at work today and why?
I came in last Saturday about a half hour before we open. The line stretched from our 13th St. door around to Folsom and then halfway down Folsom to 14th, all seniors. It was starting to rain. I felt terrible for them. I started to dread my shift even more. This will be awful, I thought.
But then I realized that the seniors on line didn’t feel that way at all. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t a party. But they weren’t down. They planned ahead. They had rain gear. They had umbrellas and a very smart co-worker had already bought every umbrella Target had last week so we could hand more out to line-waiters who didn’t have them.
When people started getting into the store, even those who had waited an hour, they were almost all appreciative and friendlier than the average apocalypse shopper. Even the crabby ones has some personality to their crabbiness, not just generic entitlement or using retail workers as targets for their own anxieties and fears. More like, “Twenty years ago a worker here did X so I am going to explain to you – as I have to every worker for the last twenty years – how I want this done.” They got a right to that.
Plus, I like what they buy. I spent ten minutes talking with a super nice guy who was trying to rearrange his cart so he could fit in the special-ordered case of his favorite wine, refusing my offers of help. Interactions like that couldn’t happen these days without the customer metering. The store is calm and the folks shopping don’t feel rushed except for a community duty in the back of their minds to the folks they know are outside waiting in line.
But more than any other group they thank us. Thank us for the senior hour, thank us for limiting the amount of people in the store, thank us for being open so they can come shop and have a little bit of normalcy while they get the things they need.
By the end of Senior Hour I am in a good mood again, pretty much every day. I thrive on human interactions and community, which is part of the reason grocery work works for me. The only place I get that from relative strangers these days is that hour of the day. I am thankful for it.
(Remember everyone, what I write are my own opinions and not necessarily the view of my other co-workers or the workplace as a whole.)
I’ve been trying to thank workers at all the stores as well. I especially appreciate things like a worker outside Trader Joe’s cleaning all the cart handles and that they put tape down at 6′ intervals outside for when people are waiting to be let in. It works if we all work together.