photos and text by Haley Galliano
The first order I ever shopped for was at the start of the state-wide shut down in Pennsylvania. I got in the tan 2015 Toyota Sienna I currently drive and decided to take on a job delivering groceries to support myself after the restaurant where I waitress was forced to close.
That initial order was a bit out of my league. Into Giant I went, confident for no reason.
A woman, who I could only assume was older, wanted every produce item to be free of blemishes. Perfect.
She wanted four packs of paper towels, which of course were out of stock. She needed a foot cream I’d never heard of. She requested a specific type of shampoo that was nowhere to be found, and upon attempting to substitute it with something else she told me: “That brand will not help me with volume. I need volume!” I thought to myself, “Who needs volume for your trip to the living room?”
By the end of that two-hour shopping trip, I was running out of patience and my phone battery nearly died.
When I pulled up to the address listed on my delivery app, my costumer was waiting for me behind the glass door of her apartment. Wearing protective gloves, she waved to me as I approached her doorway, my arms full of more bags than I probably should have attempted to carry in one trip.
“I cannot thank you enough. Thank you so much. Wow,” she said as I carefully laid the bags in front of her, a smile on her face.
That first shopping experience made me realize that no matter what I thought of the items I had to pick up, they were essential to the people who ordered them. Having a specific shampoo, and fruit without blemishes and a particular foot cream allowed my customer to maintain some normalcy, something consistent between this strange new reality and the one she knew a couple months ago.
It doesn’t really matter if I am frustrated with communication or with the amount of time it takes to shop, because people need things. During a pandemic, it’s better that a healthy 22-year-old lends a hand, so a sixty-something woman stays safe in her apartment.
I don’t feel any particular need to connect to each customer. I am here to do a job, and people need to eat. I don’t go out of my way to get to know anyone. I feel that it’s more convenient for them to simply receive exactly what they ordered.
Sometimes I want to compliment customers on their flower bed, or ask about the interesting signs they post on their doors. I wonder about their lives, but I don’t feel any particular desire to introduce myself. It’s simply nice to be anonymous.
I am doing this job because I need groceries myself and I have rent to pay. But apart from that, there is satisfaction in knowing that in the midst of a difficult time, we are all adapting the best we can, and what I do is essential to that.