The Demise of the Hero

Back in the early days of The Plague (I’m at the point where I’m just calling it the plague), my son had just left his first job in fast food, and started working at a grocery store. The timing of landing this job, in March of 2020 no less, has not been lost on me. Since then, I have seen the transition of his being hailed as a tireless hero, working hard to ensure that people could still get the essentials they needed in the midst of a global catastrophe, to now being yet again a peon, a worthless cog in the wheel. Dramatic much you say? When you have a child with Autism, anxiety, depression and OCD, well, you’re going to hear allllllllllllllll about it. I am grateful he has me to vent to, because folks, it’s WAY worse out there than you think.

This morning, I was basking in the solitude of both my working children sleeping and enjoying my coffee in relative silence (cats stampeding and such). I don’t have cable, so I get all of my news online. Talking heads on TV are like fingernails down a chalkboard IMO. Anyway, I read an article about workers so fed up they just walk out during their shifts now, and it got me thinking about the recent conversations from my two children, who both work in frontline positions. My adult son is a cashier in a food store, and my teenage (this fact is important later) daughter is a cashier in a local drug store. Incidents that I have been hearing about over the past several months are horrible. Both of them want to quit, and personally, I really don’t blame them after listening to their stories.

The store that my son works at is woefully understaffed. In the entire grocery store, there are only about 10 employees. TEN. For a GROCERY STORE. Now, this is a smaller grocery, not like the one you might be used to with a deli, pharmacy, hot foods, etc. Still, that is not a lot of people. When I stopped in there yesterday, my son was sitting at the register with no less than 15 people in his line. There was only one other register open with just as many people waiting. People were huffing/puffing (no masks of course) and audibly complaining about the number of cashiers, the length of the line and more. What a far cry that was from earlier last year, when people patiently waited as long as it took for the “essential heros” to get them checked out and on their way. No one balked at standing on their socially distant sticker, making way for the elderly and compromised. He was constantly thanked for coming out in this horrible nightmare and making sure they could get what they needed to survive. We were “all in this together”. Now? It’s like a warzone.

My son is told regularly to “take that diaper off his face”, “shut up and do your job” and much worse. He is 6’5″ and about 230 pounds. He is a gentle giant, but I am surprised people get in his face like that to be honest! After reading about the story of a cashier murdered for asking a customer to pull up their mask, I have spent time reiterating to them to just let things go. The large, plastic barriers between customer and cashier are long gone, and most people aren’t wearing a mask anymore anyway (well, I am and I’m vaccinated), so he just does his job and moves on to the next person. He feels dejected, defeated and depressed to be honest. How he goes in and does that 40+ hours a week is beyond me, but he does it. Everyone who works there is snippy, managers are short-tempered and have no patience anymore. It’s a mess. So much for the overflowing cup of thank yous from last year. They are long gone and it doesn’t seem like they are returning anytime soon. Some people have suggested that “not everyone is going to be nice!” but this just isn’t one or two people a day. This is a few times an hour, eight hours a day, 5-6 days a week now that management needs him more than ever.

Now, on to my teenage daughter. She lives with Autism, pretty serious anxiety and some depression. Also, she has some learning disabilities that have made using a register challenging. I’m so proud of how she’s been able to overcome this slowly. Working in a public setting is a HUGE deal for her. Interacting with each customer involved her actively preparing and thinking about how to handle the conversation. So, when I heard about the first creature who flirted with her, I was PISSED. Now, I don’t mind when a teenager comes in and compliments her hair. That’s a healthy interaction to me, and it truly brightens her day. However, when the 60+ year old man comes up and she asks for his number to open the reward account and he says, “Oh I thought you wanted my number for another reason” and winks, or acts shocked to find out she is a MINOR, that’s when I worry. She is petite and does NOT look like she is over 18 at all. Also, she has people screaming at her all the time, asking what the hell is wrong with her when she can’t operate the register fast enough. She has cried over it as they berate her. She tells them that she lives with Autism and some people have said that maybe she needs to find another job. Why are people like this?

When they both comment about wanting to quit, part of me can’t blame them. I don’t fight their battles for them, but I listen and offer any advice I find sound and appropriate. I encourage them to talk to their supervisors and managers and hope that they can find resolution to their problems. In the meantime, if we could all just be nice to each other and stop being the horrible POS showing up in every crevice of society, that would be nice. Thanks. *stepping off my soap box*

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