The life of a teenage pandemic worker

Preparing to go to her job as a bagger at Schnucks, Davis puts on her face mask and gloves. While most students are staying home, Davis goes out each day as an essential worker.

Courtesy of Bri Davis

Preparing to go to her job as a bagger at Schnucks, Davis puts on her face mask and gloves. While most students are staying home, Davis goes out each day as an essential worker.

I step outside of my house with my mask on, ready to go. Ready to go to the same place I’ve been going since quarantine started: Schnucks. It was a job that I applied for before this all started. I had been working at the St. Louis Zoo since freshman year, and wanted to switch it up my last two years of high school. It all happened so quickly. I remember applying for multiple jobs they had available, not thinking they would call me only three days later…

The funny thing is, I wasn’t supposed to start working until after spring break, because I had a historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) trip planned. But, that got canceled due to the mounting fears of the Coronavirus.  

So, I called my manager and told her I could work, which honestly wasn’t the worst decision I could’ve made.

My first day was so chaotic, I almost didn’t get a break. As Coronavirus fears increased, so did my personal ones, as I have asthma and am at a higher risk. People were at grocery stores, buying $300 worth of groceries or more. Baggers have multiple jobs, many that I had to learn in just 10 minutes. It was like I wasn’t even a new person working there. I kept getting compliments from my co-workers––they couldn’t believe how well I was doing as a bagger for my first day. I thought to myself, “It’s bagging groceries…is it supposed to be hard?” As time went on, it was just repetition but it was something I didn’t mind. It was the definition of an easy job.

Working at a grocery store in the midst of this has caused me to see and learn a lot of things. I saw a woman steal a whole cart full of groceries and by the time she left with her partner, I had gotten the license plate and was scared out of my mind. I had a person give me a look all because I was choking due to an itch I had in my throat and couldn’t leave to go get water. I heard a woman have a breakdown in an aisle where there was no toilet paper or paper towels, screaming about how she couldn’t take it anymore. I saw a man in a full-body suit with a gas mask, standing a good distance away from the register until it was time to pay. I had people refuse to let me bag their groceries, insisting they can do it themselves. 

Everything that I do as a bagger gives me the strength to keep going, to keep coming to work and to keep putting myself at risk,

— junior Bri Davis

I never thought that I would be an essential worker in the middle of a pandemic, especially because I am high risk. But, as I continue to work, put on my mask and my gloves, wash my hands and talk through plexiglass,  I always keep one thing in the back of my head: I’m helping. I’m helping make people’s lives a little less painful through this. I am giving them a smile and maybe even a joke while I bag their groceries. I am helping older people to their cars and putting their groceries in. Everything that I do as a bagger gives me strength to keep going, to keep coming to work and to keep putting myself at risk. 

At the end of the day, yes, everyone is in a panic, spending all their money and stuck at home, losing their minds. But at least I can help someone’s day, even just for five minutes, corona-free.