Column: Work during coronavirus brings heightened awareness, challenges

A+mask+sits+in+the+nearly+empty+dining+room+of+Chick-fil-A.+All+restuarant+dining+rooms+are+closed+because+of+the+coronoavirus%2C+which+has+made+masks+the+new+normal.+In+this+column%2C+assistant+editor+Ryan+Stanley+writes+about+what+it%27s+like+to+work+during+a+pandemic.+

Ryan Stanley

A mask sits in the nearly empty dining room of Chick-fil-A. All restuarant dining rooms are closed because of the coronoavirus, which has made masks the new normal. In this column, assistant editor Ryan Stanley writes about what it's like to work during a pandemic.

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I hear a sneeze come from behind me. Immediately, my coworker and I whip our heads around to see what car it came from. This is how it goes. One sneeze or one cough is cause for suspicion and concern in the workplace.

I’m grateful to have a job at Chick-fil-A during a time where millions are laid off from their work. The company’s coronavirus guidelines are sufficient and keep me feeling safe at work. My shifts look like this:

I arrive at 7:50 a.m. every Thursday through Saturday. By 7:55 a.m., someone checks my temperature, I answer questions about my health and wash my hands. Finally, I put on disposable gloves and a mask. By 8 a.m., I’m working. Every 30 minutes following the start of my shift I’m supposed to wash my hands and change my gloves. When taking orders, I keep a distance and when we hand food to customers, it’s in a bin to minimize contact. In addition, customers swipe their own credit cards and after every cash transaction, I’m required to change my gloves.

More and more customers come through the drive-through with masks and gloves, which is something I like to see. If the workers are doing their best to protect the customer, the customer should also do the best to protect the worker.”

— Ryan Stanley

This is a big step up from other fast-food chains such as Whataburger where I witnessed a “business as usual mindset” that resulted in aggressive hand-washing and a 10-minute ordeal on figuring out how to eat our food. While waiting in the drive-through, a Whataburger employee handed us, my brother and I, our drinks with no gloves or mask on. She also walked straight up to our car window and kept no distance. Then, she brought our food. Again, no gloves or mask, and unlike Chick-fil-A, she was holding it in her hands. The worst part was when we paid. The employee took our card with no gloves. That’s when I realized she had touched every credit-card in the drive-through line with no gloves then continued to hand out food all without washing her hands.

If you’re a Whataburger employee, I’m sorry you have to put up with this. Your employer should protect you. And if you’re a customer like me, let’s hope the food is worth it and our hand sanitizer protects us. Within the past weeks, I’ve witnessed a recent past with very few people wearing masks shift to now where those who don’t wear them in public are viewed as dangerous. I didn’t wear a mask when I started working a few weeks ago, but now it’s a priority. More and more customers come through the drive-through with masks and gloves, which is something I like to see. If the workers are doing their best to protect the customer, the customer should also do the best to protect the worker.

The coronavirus has provided me with one advantage in regard to work: more hours. E-learning allows for a flexible schedule, and since I’m not at school during the day I can be at work instead. While school cancellation is unfortunate – especially for seniors – it’s an opportunity to gain some job experience and make good money. But all this couldn’t be said without all those involved. To those who are still working, thank you. To the customers who support us and keep us busy, thank you.

Editors note: The mentioned Whataburger was visited on Apr. 15. Store policies regarding coronavirus may have changed since them.