When the pandemic started in Ottawa, I did my best to follow the government’s request to just stay home, stay clean and try to stay healthy. It wasn’t until workers were sent home from their jobs and told not to come back until COVID-19 was all over, did the situation really start to affect my life.

For three and a half years I have worked at a pharmacy with a postal outlet inside. My department has always been in the postal services and it has been a great job. As both the pharmacy and post office are essential services we have stayed open while other retail outlets have had to shut down.

At first, I was happy. I got to keep my hours at work and keep my steady pay coming in. Being a typical “broke college student,” every penny helps. The first day I worked during the pandemic it was a shift from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., which is not bad right?

Not until you’ve seen the number of people who just come in to roam around the store, touching things and putting items back on the shelf. I got anxious watching this. You want to just put a sign up reading “please just stay home!” But you will never have control over anyone but yourself.

The customers who have come into the post office are doing a good job of protecting me and themselves. Some come in wearing gloves, some have masks. No one brings their kids in anymore and they even keep a good distance away from me when I’m serving them.

The company I work for is being great during this time. They are making sure their employees feel comfortable and safe. Every station has a bottle of hand sanitizer and lots of cleaning products and the post office has received a sheet of plexiglass that hangs in between me and the customer.

I sanitize my hands like it’s nobody’s business. By the end of my shifts, however, my hands are so dry. (It doesn’t help that I have eczema.) My hands have gotten to the point where I had to buy a little bottle of hand cream because I started using all the hand lotion we had at our station.

I have three family members at home: my mom, my dad and my brother. My mom voices her concern for me the most. She wants me to stay clean and safe while I’m at work. When I’m done my shift and come home, she makes me go straight to the bathroom. When I’m in there, I’m to strip every piece of clothing I’m wearing and put it right into the hamper, then I’m right into the shower to wash myself off.

Personally, when I’m working, I feel fine. I feel like I can get through COVID-19 and be okay. I’m not scared for myself. I just make sure I stay keep washing my hands and sanitizing them. I am scared for those around me. I don’t want any of my customers to want to get sick. I’m also scared of transferring the virus.

My employers have provided us with gloves if we want them and face masks as well if they would make us feel more protected. I think that’s why I feel so calm while I’m at work because my managers have kept it a calm and well-functioning environment.

One big thing that really helps me while I’m at work is all the people who look at me and just say thank you for coming to work and staying open and the ones who tell me to stay safe before they leave.

It really impacts how you feel while working during this pandemic. It makes it feel worth it and like you’re actually making a difference.

I may not be a health worker in a hospital – and they do deserve all the thank yous, appreciation and praise because they are doing great work – but when my regular customers thank me, it makes me feel like what I’m doing is worth it.