Working the Front Lines: Mason DiPierdomenico, Grade 11, Grocery Store Worker

Grade 11 student Mason DiPierdomenico has been an employee at a west end Foodland for almost two years, along with his brother David, Grade 12. Mason works as a cashier and does file maintenance, making sure that items scan at the right price, while his brother stocks shelves. For Mason, the job has become a huge part of his daily life, working about 25 hours per week.
“Before COVID, I worked about three or four times a week. Once things went crazy, I was doing four or five shifts a week, but my father is worried for me, so he has made me slow down to three shifts one week and then four shifts the following week,” said Mason. “If it were up to me, I’d be working four or five times a week because I have nothing else to do.”
 
Excluding his online schooling, of course. Mason is still doing his schoolwork to the best of his ability and always submits his assignments on time. But on Thursdays, for example, he starts his shift at noon, so he emails his teachers and asks them how he can catch up. He says he is used to managing his time.
 
“Even before COVID, I had to manage my time. I’ve always had to balance my job and school and sacrifice things, like playing video games with my friends,” said Mason. “My dad always encourages me to do things with my friends, but my response has always been ‘I’m with my friends five times a week at school!’ If you want to work and receive a nice paycheque, you have to work hard. Do I want to hang out with my friends? Yes, but I don’t have FOMO. You never know what life throws at you.”
 
Life has definitely thrown a curveball at the way Mason and his colleagues are currently working. Like all other grocery stores, social distancing measures are in place and Mason now wears a face shield at the cash.
 
“We have screens at the cash and we have to wear gloves and masks or face shields. We have one-way aisles, we have lineups outside because we only allow 25 people in the store at a time. We’re sanitizing carts, cleaning much more often, we don’t do any lotto transactions and we won’t bag for people if they’ve brought in their own bags,” said Mason, who said they all received a $2/hour “hero pay” wage increase. “As for the customers, at first, they were very welcoming and understanding, but the attitude changed after about two weeks. We’re trying to limit the use of cash and some customers aren’t happy about it. At the same time, we’ve had at least five customers either buy us lunch or bring us doughnuts or coffee. There are a lot of customers that care or thank us for what we’re doing.”
 
Despite the fact that Mason knows his job puts him in the higher risk category, he continues to work as many hours as he can.
 
“I don’t feel like I’m at higher risk, but I know that I am and I’m not nervous about it,” said Mason. “As my own precaution, I go right into the shower – I have to. I have other people in the house who aren’t working and those clothes go right into the wash to limit the spread.”
 
Thank you, Mason, for all that you do!
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