“Even though the country is divided, we are united, in a way.”
Over the coming weeks, The Face will introduce you to key workers from sectors across the UK. Here, 20-year-old supermarket assistant Keziah takes us onto the frontline of food sales, as we spend a day on a supermarket floor in Reading.
“Everything is pretty much similar to how it was before, with slight undertones of panic in people.
On a normal day, I’d go in and pick shopping for those who order online. I’d help people who need to find certain things, ask if they needed a certain product then go to the aisles and show them. They might ask me for my opinion so I give them my opinion on the products. The job was the same – except now there’s added scariness having to distance ourselves from people.
With the customers, it depends on how that person can handle the pressures of being on lockdown. Some people can be rude to you, or stand next to you in an aisle and completely ignore the social distancing policies. But the majority of people are very respectful and acknowledge that we are all in the same boat, just trying to stay back and be kind.
In terms of the team, we’ve definitely been pulling together. Before the pandemic, you’d go in, do your shift and go home, and there would be a select few people you’d talk to. But now everyone is talking to each other. We’ve had a lot of young temps coming in and they seem to brighten up the place. It’s unusual to see everyone singing and dancing. It’s nice to be at work, in that sense.
The managers are being really helpful. Ever since lockdown began I noticed a really quick response. The people speaking on the overhead radio would instruct people to follow the lines and arrows on the floor, and there were signs saying “please keep a two-metre distance.”
It took awhile for us to get PPE, but then it took awhile for everyone in the country to get PPE. Now they’ve provided us with hand sanitiser, are making sure the toilets are super clean, and the seats in the canteen have been arranged [to respect social distancing]. There’s a sense of community – everyone is trying to make sure that everyone is happy and not scared about doing their job.
I’d say I’ve felt like a frontline worker since the pandemic hit, just because I was very aware that everything would be shut down apart from places like supermarkets and chemists – very urgent, important places. But it didn’t really impact me until the whole process carried on for a month. Now we’re in our sixth week of lockdown and I’m still in the same position where I have to go to work and provide a good service. I have to do that anyway, but now I have to step it up for the people who come out and get their shopping, going that extra mile for each customer.
It’s hard to explain, but even though there’s a lot of panic, the pandemic has almost united people in a sense. There have been a couple of moments when customers have walked past and said, ‘You guys are doing a great job, well done.’ A lot of older people are very thankful for us doing that extra bit. People are talking to each other – people who might not have spoken to one another before.
Even though the country is divided and having to stay at home, we are quite united, in a way.”