Front-Line Grocer | COVID-19 Stories | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Front-Line Grocer 

click to enlarge NORM MAGNUSSON
  • Norm Magnusson

We don't sell empathy on our shelves.

We have organic, free range, all natural, local, antibiotic-free, vegan-friendly, and sustainably harvested versions of nearly every product you can think of here at the grocery store, but we don't sell community in any aisle.

Hot breath pollutes the inside of my mask, the latex of my gloves clinging to my skin as I pull forward olive oils and capers, coconut milk and sesame tahini.

I wonder what my family is doing at home. My son is three, my daughter eight, and my wife I'm sure, is exhausted from running a daycare and homeschool while working more than ever. I miss them.

I taught my associates that image is everything. In the grocery and retail business, it largely is. Since the virus emerged, a semblance of an image is all that can be maintained. My store has been stripped of structure and organization, the beauty of variety, and the comfort of quantity. It's been bled dry of courteous customers and replaced by fearful, selfish consumers.

The virus has made everyone and everything uncomfortable. I don't have answers for my clientele on when their brand of sour cream will arrive, I don't know what time to tell my wife I'll be home, and I don't know when I can tell my kids we can go to the playground again.

Aisle by aisle I methodically touch each product, exposing myself, my family, and everyone else to an unknown risk. I'm interrupted by requests, by complaints, and hands reaching all around my head.

Despite the shortages of paper products, the disappearance of disinfectants, and the specter of hand sanitizer, I try to be thankful for what I have.

Today, I am grateful for the cover my mask provides, as my customer service smile is no longer sure of itself.

Elmore Kensing is a register ringin', price gun slingin', two-kid totin' father in the Hudson Valley.

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