Up and down the country thousands of keyworkers from various sectors are trying to keep Britain moving through this difficult time. That includes me. I am a customer assistant in a Tesco supermarket. I mainly work on checkouts, which includes me making small talk with customers to fill the silence as they fill up the conveyor belt and pay for their shopping. This small interaction with a customer had never been something I had thought much into, but lockdown has allowed me to realise that to some people this awkward conversation means a whole lot more.
One afternoon a woman came to my till to pay for her shopping. I asked her the basic questions such as ‘how are you today’, ‘have you done anything nice this afternoon?’. She told me how she’d just bought a new car before lockdown but nobody has seen it. She pointed it out in the window and I told her how it looked like a lovely little car. We started talking more about her day, telling me about how she lives alone and doesn’t have internet within the house. As she was leaving she turned around and said ‘Thank you’.
I thought she was just thanking me for carrying on working during a pandemic, but just before I was about to smile and wish her well she included that this small conversation was the only one she had in over two weeks. She was thanking me because I took the time to speak to her. She walked out of the shop and left me pondering over what she had just said.
Two weeks without any interaction with another person. For many people-including me- they go home to a family, can Zoom chat friends and it acts as a distraction or relief from these uncertain times- but for some this isn’t a possibility. Working in a supermarket I speak to hundreds of people daily going through the checkout; a small conversation like I had with this woman, I will have repeatedly throughout my shift. It made me think of how hard lockdown must be for an individual who lives alone, especially for those without internet access.
Loneliness can be extremely impactful on an individual’s well-being, and in times like this it has never been more important to connect to each other. It is important to recognise who is vulnerable and acknowledge the people who we know could be facing difficulties living alone. For some a 5-minute call could be a lifeboat. If you know someone who this could apply to, I urge you to pick up the phone.
Staying connected is important and if you are struggling to find someone to turn to within these difficult times I have included some helplines which could be useful. These helplines can allow you to express concerns, ask for advice, or allow you to hear a friendly voice:
Age UK Advice Line: 0800 678 1602 (open 8am-7pm everyday)
National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247 (open 24 hours)
Mankind: 01823 334 244 (weekdays, 10am- 4pm)
In such a difficult time, it has never been more important to reach out to others. Stay connected, stay kind, and stay safe.