A Day in the Dollar

A normal day for me is waking up going to my online classes and then off to work, but it is not as simple as it sounds. The process of going to work is something in itself. When I go outside I need to wear a mask and gloves and have multiple on hand, and wipes in my bag. The bus is one of the most dangerous places to contract the virus because of how many people pass through there is still a large number even though the state says to quarantine ourselves. Even the difficulty of staying six feet away from people on the bus when half the bus is blocked off to protect the bus drivers.

A pandemic is something I’ve never thought I would experience in my life time, even now it doesn’t feel real. The fact that thousands of people are dying and fighting for their lives from this virus. Then again life must go on, some of us have to go work because we are considered essential workers. I don’t do anything like work in a hospital helping the patients infected with COVID-19. I don’t work in the MTA driving the buses and trains helping people where they need to go, or in the labs like the people trying to find a vaccine for this virus. I’m 18 years old and I work at a Dollar Tree.

I used to have a job at a Party City, but soon after schools closed and the pandemic truly began, I was sent an email that I was temporarily laid off and if I want to be considered to be rehired I can request for an interview. I didn’t understand what it meant at first, but my parents clued me in. It meant I was just fired. I kinda stayed home for a long period of time wasting away, so my parents forced me to get another. The Dollar Tree near my old middle school was hiring, so I decided to apply. I had to wait till it was my birthday and I turned 18 to apply. Then two days later I was employed and working.

I have to take the bus because if I let my father drop me off I’d be late, so many times that they would fire me. I know this is true because I was told by my sister who works there too was told by the manager if I’m late one more time it would be my last day and they could easily replace me with so many people out of work, who wouldn’t want my job.

Even when I get off work I have to use the wipes to disinfect my phone, headphones, backpack, and hands. Then I have to go work and start the day. When I go to open up I have to keep multiple pairs of gloves to account for when the gloves rip or when I use cleaning products to clean my station it seeps through my gloves and I need a new pair. Recently we have put up shields in front of the register to block the customers, but in my opinion I don’t think it has any effect. It’s just a thin piece of plastic hanging in front of the register separating me from the customers.

I’m on edge because at any point and time I could catch the virus and I don’t know if I would recover or survive. People say that the virus is a huge problem for people in their old age and with compromised immune systems, but it still affects everyone in a big way. I’m only eighteen and have so much of my life ahead of me. Starting college, prom, graduation – these are things I will never get to experience. I should be happy going out into the summer sun, not cower in fear to an invisible enemy. I’m not the only one on edge – so are the customers who come in wearing shields and masks on their heads. People are always asking if we have hand sanitizer and are constantly buying paper towels, toilet paper, and food. We have had to put a limit on essential items, only 4 items per person. Our store even has a rule now that if you want to enter the store you must wear a mask, no exception. Then again some people are still on edge because one time when a guy coughed with his mask on, a customer ran to the other side of the store to complain to the manager. In another incident, a customer asked another if they were on line and then he lashed out at her  and cursed her out. I don’t know if this is a common occurrence, but it tells me people are on edge.

There is also a limit of how many people we can have in the store, which does form a line outside the store, which is a sight to see outside a Dollar Tree store. Our location also has another policy that we let in essential workers, such as public transit workers and doctors, but I find this rule to be dumb. I understand you are putting your life on the line, but there are other people there waiting in line. It shouldn’t matter if I’m a regular person and you’re a doctor. We are all going through the same thing and we shouldn’t pick and choose who gets the needed materials to survive the pandemic. We are all in this together trying to survive.