APPROX READ: 6 MINUTES
NOTE: This story is non-fiction, although names have been changed for privacy.
The birds were chirping loud when I walked out the sliding doors of my new workplace, the warm wind hit me in the face. I didn’t realize how much I was in need of fresh air until I smelt the petrichor. To my right the sun was coming up, making the sky blend from a pretty pastel orange up into a perfect baby blue colour. The morning sky surprised me because I had been up all night to see the wicked dark storm that had took place right in — what appears to be — the same spot. I noticed on the ground, all the animals around seemed to love it. It hadn’t rained this much all summer. Birds were dancing in puddles and squirrels were using the wet soil as a digging advantage to ‘stock up’ for the coming winter. I’ve always loved those weird creatures.
As I made my way to the bench to sit down and have a puff, a small bird — looked like a chickadee — flew right in front of my face. That’s the third or fourth time that bird’s almost hit me when I’ve walked out of here…
It’s only been a month since I started working the night shift at my local superstore. Hired on during the grocery store raids as a ‘COVID TEMP’ I got to experience the night shift world. What happens in a grocery store at night to make it useful to all those 9-5 people. All I can say is that it is very different, rather quiet and the most peaceful, yet depressing times I have seen the world. Although this is my first night shift job, I’m starting to believe that seeing the world transform at night is the best part of my work days. I always missed seeing the sun set and rise, but now I’m awake for both most of the time, which is a nice change I know I needed. I used to be a morning person when I worked days and evenings but that changed quick. Almost like everything else in the world when the WHO declared COVID a pandemic in March 2020. Another big change is that I can finally say I lived to see a pandemic, and I made it a mission to find a job. It seems kind of surreal that a global pandemic hits and forces everyone to change after years of activists calling on our leaders for changes, myself included.
Now that I am seen as a ‘COVID TEMP’ my position is considered ‘essential’ to keep the economy running and people in my area fed. Although it has created inconveniences, it cannot compare to that feeling we have when losing somebody close to us. In the grand scheme of the coronavirus, I am realizing that people have always worried about the smallest things. Thinking about how small my worries are about the world, on this cold metal bench, in the small parking lot at my work. Not to mention, in a small town — in a relatively small part of the world, Canada. And if you want to go there, on a even smaller planet compared to the ones out there. Thinking about how this pandemic has affected people, I was reminded of Erin. The lady with the laugh at my work told me her relative at home is very at-risk, but they need any money they can get. She sneaks night shifts in without him knowing… and rushes home early before he wakes up to act like she just woke up… this whole night has got me in my head.
I tried to get comfortable on the metal bench but the thoughts were so strong the only way I could relax was to put my bag behind my back and lay down. Looking at my coworkers starting to head back inside, I realized I spent my entire 30 minute break sitting on a bench thinking. How much time have I spent doing this in my life? Only more questions come to mind and I can’t seem to shake them. With the 5 minutes I have left, I turned up my music and let myself sink into the groove of the music booming through my earbuds.
The world has been changing around me, it always has been. But now, I am more aware of it and I have this gut feeling that something big is happening. Of course it’s all back stage and no one will let me back there to see what it is. It’s probably better that way.
– 2 hours of work later –
The sun was finally over the horizon and climbing into the sky to make today one of the last warm days before the winter. The heat of the sun feels so nice, considering I’ve been working in the frozen department, I get cold by the end of the shift. I took a seat on the bench to wait for my ride and started to think about the sky. As another thought was about to pass through my mind I almost missed Laura come out the sliding exit doors with her groceries and head to the van. She had been nice enough to give me rides home when we worked together until I got my first car. I grabbed my bags from the bench and ran to catch up to her.
“How’d it go tonight?” I asked, trying to sound polite knowing she’s been doing this for almost 8 years. “Eh.. same old y’know, it was busy alright. They threw me in aisle 2 with all the toilet paper, Terry’s trying to tell me I need to wipe my ass pretty sure” Laura let out a squeal of a laugh. Typical of her, she is very motherly towards all the younger workers. Always up for conversation; most of it is bad jokes, but I appreciate the days I work with her. I can see how lonely she might get at home. Snapping me out of my thoughts she asked me, “Eh? You want a bagel or something? My other kids asking me for a breakfast sandwich from Timmies, gotta get it cause I forgot last week.” That same ol’ squeal of a laugh came out, but I could tell this time she was trying to hide it because she knows it’s funny. Enough to make me crack a laugh. “I’ll be alright without, thanks though.” I sat on the curb while she piled her bags of groceries into the side door of the van. “Well, hopefully it’s not too busy. I’ll be right back.” The van door slammed shut and off she walked to the Timmies to satisfy her childs hunger. Kind of reminded me of how a baby bird squawks out a call to their bird mom and within the day receives a worm or two if they’re lucky. It amazes me how different we are.
Starting this new job has created many opportunities for me. I am hoping it does not stop me from pursing my true passions for art and writing. There has been talk about them making me full-time but I have been waiting for the hiring manager to be working when I am so we can talk about it. Scoring full-time would mean a much needed raise for the full-time work I am doing now anyway.
As I looked up from the birds I was watching on the grass, there was Laura walking out of the Timmies with her hands full. I got up to lend a hand, but she was determined to make it to the van solo and shrugged me off. Once she unlocked it, I hopped in and grabbed the drinks so she could at the very least get in her seat. The whole situation made me laugh and I couldn’t help but point it out. “I thought it was only a breakfast sandwich?” She gave me a funny look. “Y’know when you have 5 kids this is what ends up happening.” We both let out a synchronized sigh and she started the van up. Ready for take off, that’s exactly what we did, on our way to what we called home, and in 24 hours we’d do it all over again.
After 9 months of working the night shift at my local superstore I have become closer to some co-workers. With this also makes me drawn away from others and makes me do my job better. My boss has seen my improvement and commitment despite my attendance issues in the beginning because of personal issues. Terry even went so far as recommending me for the full-time frozen position. That leaves me in charge of a whole department, in a way. Struggles and anxiety aside, it took patience and confidence in my own work to get the interview done. A week later, when I got told the full-time position would be mine it made me a different kind of proud. Almost like the 8 months I worked harder than I had to really did pay me off. With a generous raise and the choice of my set schedule, I have never been this stable with a job in my entire life. I only hope to get better and faster at my job to make my bosses proud because I know they handle more than I do. With another useful experience under my belt, I started to think again.
“If you put all your energy into something, it can turn out extremely terrible or incredibly amazing. It all depends on the energy you have, and put towards that something.”emriyus. ‘COVID TEMP: A Short Story’ 2020
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