There are many out there doing their job to keep the essentials of our society running for all of us, even with the risks that come with being exposed to the virus. To honour them, we thought we’d tell these people’s story in a series of articles we’ll be publishing over the next few weeks.
We’ll be asking doctors, nurses, supermarket staff, delivery people etc. what it’s like to be doing their job during a pandemic when doing their job means putting themselves at risk.
In this instalment, we ask supermarket cashier, Irene, about what it’s like to work in an Austrian supermarket at the moment. Irene works in a store in Althofen, a small town in Carinthia. She talks about the fear and bizarre circumstances she’s witnessed since the outbreak of the virus.
Vienna Würstelstand (VWS): What’s the mood like each day in the supermarket since the coronavirus shutdown?
Irene: It’s tense. But we try to stay friendly and… well, we just do our job. But the fear is definitely present.
VWS: Have you witnessed many people panic buying? What’s it like?
Irene: Yes, lots of people, even. It’s even more extreme than Christmas time. Most people shop for flour, noodles, and toilet paper. So yes, the toilet paper thing is definitely real.
VWS: Are you and your colleagues worried about being exposed to the virus?
Irene: Yes, but that’s only human, I think. It’s normal. That fear definitely exists. There are lots of safety measures for us, and for the customers, but we do still so think about it a lot.
VWS: Many people in society see you as heroes for keeping a vital part of the system running – do you feel like a hero?
Irene: A hero? I don’t feel like a hero. We’re just… there. We do our job, albeit with fear, but I wouldn’t consider myself a hero.
VWS: What’s the most stand out conversation with customers, or a memorable thing you’ve witnessed, since the shutdown started?
Irene: We had someone in the store, who was really, I mean, really frightened. We were all keeping our distance, but he was just trying to stay away from basically everything. And I’m not talking about the 1 meter rule, he tried to avoid all other customers and always moved far out of everybody’s way.
That really made me realise how frightened some people actually are.
VWS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Irene: I just hope that we get our normal lives back as soon as possible, that’s all I want right now. And to stay healthy, of course.