The Delta Variant is Surging but I Know, You Need a Backpack


If you have ever worked a job where you stand for 9-plus hours a day, you will understand my pain.

Typically, my feet do not hurt. I have worked retail for so long that my feet are immune to standing. When I first began in retail my feet hurt so bad I wanted to cry every night. Now, it's no big deal. I don't even notice. Until today.

My feet hurt so bad I don't even know what to do with them. Put them up? Ignore them? I don't know. I just poured myself a glass of wine, grabbed my computer, and I'm hoping it will go away.

Back-to-school is in full swing out here in California. Most schools go back in about two weeks. My days are filled with directing people and answering questions. I don't mind - at all - but the Delta variant is an added thorn in my side.

My company did away with masks for vaccinated people - yay - and then they reinstated them rather quickly. It's all okay. I am vaccinated so I was glad to kick that mask to the curb but this new variant is scary and disheartening and I feel fine that I am required to wear a mask again. I'm glad that my staff has the added protection. Here's what I didn't quite notice the last time we hit our peak business weeks during the holiday.

It's tiring to wear a mask at work. Really tiring. I have to speak louder than I normally would and trying to project my voice through the mask, over the loud music, and beyond everyone else talking is just…a lot. It wears you down quickly. Customers can't hear me. I'll call them up to the counter and they look around, "who me?" Yes. You. I repeat the same thing about 50 times a day and doing it with a mask on takes an added toll. I also wear a headset, a walkie, a lanyard, and glasses so there is a lot that I have to put on my head. The other day I answered the phone and put it to the ear that has the headset on. It didn't even phase me. That's how it's going.

Back-to-school shopping amid a pandemic is super weird. Last year, no one went back to school in person. Backpack shopping was non-existent. Now, everyone needs one. Everyone is going back despite the fact that younger kids can't get the vaccine. School rules vary dramatically. You have to just smile at the customer (with your eyes - I've gotten really good at this) and hope they stay healthy through this terrifying mutation.

No one really acknowledges it. Some customers wear masks. Most don't. It's their prerogative; I don't care either way. But it is kind of Twilight-Zone weird that everyone just shops their little hearts out. Piling massive amounts of clothes on the counter and then asking to see like five different backpacks until they've found the right one. And then off they go. Like it's a normal back-to-school.

I think maybe parents are so desperate to get their kids back in school that this is all just willful avoidance. They don't want their kids at home. One more Zoom class and they will slide down to the end of that very frazzled rope. That backpack purchase feels like a guarantee that their kids will leave the house every day. I hope they get to. I really do.

Retail work is physically hard. Any job that is customer-facing is exhausting. It just is. Masks mandates and a pandemic don't help the situation but we'll all figure it out.

My teenage staff is amazing. They just roll with whatever. No pushback. No whining. They are just happy they get to work with their friends and get a discount on clothes. They are stoked to pull backpacks down for you all day long. They're chillin'. Their attitude is part of the reason I can make it through my day.

The next time you're out be patient with everyone around you. They may be working 10 days straight. Any rules they are enforcing are not theirs; it's just their job to enforce them. They may be short-staffed or working a double. If you are wearing a mask, speak loudly. Listen hard. Give people space - always, not just right now.

We will all get through this. My feet will recover eventually, they always do. For the next 24 hours, I will only leave my house to walk my dog and I will enjoy every bit of silence until I have to go back to work. When I do go back, I will smile with my eyes, ask you about your summer, and sell you any backpack that you would like and you will never know how bad my body hurts.

Like what you read?