It was the winter of ‘94/’95. I can’t remember if it was before the New Year or after. I was a customer service attendant (that’s a fancy term for grocery bagger) at Genuardi’s. They were calling for massive amounts of snow overnight. I was working the 4pm to 7pm shift.
For three hours, I didn’t move from my spot at the end of the cash register. I bagged gallon after gallon milk, carton after carton of eggs, loaf after loaf of bread. And so it went with the seemingly endless lines. Every cash register was open. Almost every register had a bagger.
I asked my manager if I could stay on for a couple of more hours. It was a Friday night and I was only working a 4-hour shift the next day. But the law said that 15-year-olds were only allowed to work 3 hours on weeknights. As I walked out of the store that night, I counted over 35 people waiting in the express lane. The rest of the lines were longer.
I opened my front door the following morning and there was a ridiculous amount of snow on the ground. I put on my boots, bundled up, and headed to work. The usual 7-minute walk took me half an hour, but I managed.
The store was empty when I walked in. There were two cashiers. I was the only bagger. Everyone else had called out. After an hour of no customers in either line, my manager bought us breakfast sandwiches. I went to grab an orange juice and noticed a single loaf of bread left on the shelf. There was no milk and no eggs.
I had 4 customers in 4 hours of work. After cleaning everything that needed cleaning, I sat on the bag shelf talking with the cashiers. At noon, I bundled myself up again and started the trek home. I still couldn’t take my usual short cut, but the sidewalks had been shoveled and the roads had been salted and plowed. It only took me 15 minutes to walk home.
By Sunday, the entire world was back to normal and hundreds of people in my suburban town were overstocked on the “necessities” of milk, eggs, bread, and more. I wonder how much milk was poured down the drain, how many eggs and pieces of bread were thrown in the garbage.
Even the worst blizzards I’ve seen haven’t left me incapacitated for more than a day or two. I’m fairly certain that most people live with more than two days’ worth of food in the house. So what makes people panic so much? What elicits this fear?
Every projected snowstorm and blizzard, I think back to that winter when I was bagging groceries. I think about the countless people lining up in grocery stores, most of them buying things they don’t need. I think about how I won’t bother, how I’ll make do with whatever is already stocked in my kitchen, and how I’ll be just fine.
I think we rush around too much. We focus on all of the things standing in our way of getting where we want to go, and we don’t stop to just focus on where we are. I’ve been guilty of this many times. I still am sometimes. I yell at my boyfriend because he has “no sense of hustle.” He takes his time with everything, even when we’re rushed, and it drives me bonkers . . . but the truth is, I envy him.
I’m learning though . . . slowly but surely. Working from home has made the biggest difference. While there are definitely some difficulties, it’s allowed me to slow my pace. There’s no more rushing to catch a bus, no clocks to punch . . . I work a schedule that fits my day. I get done what I need to get done, and I’m left with plenty of time to slow down and enjoy the moments with my family . . . even those . . . especially those that leave us boarded up for a day or two.