“We just have to remember this is temporary, that the rulebook for everything is thrown out the window.”
Grocery stores, and those employed by them, have become essential during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Bridgewater State University’s Eamonn Graeme, ’22, is making sure members of the general public can continue to put food on the table.
When Eamonn applied to work as a grocery store clerk back in high school he was looking for a way to earn some money. He never anticipated his job would become vital to so many.
Now a sophomore, Eamonn still works as a clerk during the summer and school breaks. This year during spring break, he traveled back to his native Easthampton to pick up some hours at the store.
It was the week of March 8. His first day behind the register, he immediately recognized something was going on. People were already starting to panic. The store opens at 7 a.m., but people were lined up outside the door a half hour before.
“Things really started to pick up…we were selling out of a lot of products – toilet paper and paper products at first,” Eamonn said. “People were in full blown panic mode; they were panic buying. This was before social distancing, there was already so much fear.”
Initially, Eamonn thought it would blow over, but as the week went on store traffic continued to pick up.
“They kept calling me in and extending my hours because they needed help. I have worked there for five years and have never seen it that busy, I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
When Bridgewater State started to make the tough decisions, first to cancel the week of classes after spring break, then eventually moving fully to online/remote learning, Eamonn realized how serious the situation was.
As someone who is very involved in the BSU community, he knew these changes would mean he and his fellow Bears would have to adapt. The communications major works as a resident adviser and serves as president of the Sigma Pi fraternity.
When it came time to move off the BSU campus, it wasn’t easy.
“Moving off campus was heartbreaking,” he said. “We left spring break thinking we’d see each other the next week, but now who knows when we will see each other.”
Eamonn has since set up a virtual classroom at his parent’s Easthampton house. He’s taken a couple of online classes before but admits taking an entire course load online has been challenging, yet he’s managing.
“Everyone, including professors, are making adjustments to make it work,” he said.
As president of Sigma Pi, he continues to perform his duties remotely, maintaining the BSU chapter from afar via Zoom and Snapchat groups.
“We still communicate the same amount that we would if we were on campus, we are all brothers in a sense…it’s business as usual but it’s all virtual,” he said. “We just have to remember this is temporary, that the rulebook for everything is thrown out the window.”
This may be the new normal for now, but Eamonn looks forward to a time when he and his peers are back on campus.
“I anticipate everyone will experience an overwhelming feeling of excitement and joy being back, because the culture of BSU is one where we are engaged with our community,” he said.
Eamonn said that during the pandemic he wants people to remember that those behind the register are just as nervous as they are.
“Realize it’s a scary time for them too, they are putting themselves out there on the line. They are there for you so you can still be fed and have a piece of mind when you are home,” Eamonn said.
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