For the past year and a half, it's very unlikely that those looking for work would want to work in a public place such as a restaurant or grocery / retail store. The COVID-19 pandemic has enveloped the world—the way we shop, the way we interact and certainly, the way we see the future.
Grocery store workers are the unofficial thin green line between people and food, thrust into a situation that no one saw coming. In 2020, the burden of facing the masses fell on a select few, and Adam Kaat was one of them.
A former grocery store cashier, Kaat likens his 18 months on the grocery line to a “fever dream” or “getting hit by wave after wave at high tide.” Kaat witnessed firsthand the devastation—and desperation—stoked by an invisible, deadly force as the pandemic of 2020 unfolded. He shares his unforgettable experiences in the powerful new book, Life on the Grocery Line: A Frontline Experience in a Global Pandemic.
“Everything happened overnight,” Kaat recalls in a recent interview. “All of a sudden, you had people with mounds of groceries. Every conversation was about the virus. Every conversation was political. People became polarized immediately.”
In his book, Kaat takes readers into the eye of the storm, where some of the workforce’s lowest paid employees ride a daily maelstrom of empty shelves, angry customers, uncertainty and paranoia. He describes what it was like to be “the gatekeeper to food,” often joined by a police officer as he monitored the number of shoppers permitted in the store.
He tells his story through the eyes in "Life on the Grocery Store Line," of a character named Daniel, who watches from the frontlines as the frenzied panic caused by COVID surges like a tidal wave across his home state of Colorado. Now, he's suddenly being called a hero just for showing up at his job, and he isn't sure how to feel about that.
The character, true to its author, sees fear in the eyes of some customers and hostility in others, as he does his best to hold his head high and just keep making it from one shift to the next. And along the way, he learns more than he ever expected to about humanity's response to fear, observing most prominently the way in which some people look down on the very workers they deem "essential.”
At its core, "Life on the Grocery Line" is about a test of the human spirit—a 21st century manifestation of Ernest Hemingway’s "The Old Man and The Sea."
Author Kaat worked in a grocery store as a cashier and then as a prepared foods supervisor from January 2020 until May 2021. After college, he bounced around through the corporate world until leaving it all behind in the Fall of 2019 to write his first novel. By January 2020, he had taken a job as a cashier to earn money while preserving mental energy for his creative pursuits. He got much more than he bargained for when COVID hit. He began to blog about his experiences as a frontline worker, and 15,000 Facebook followers later, Life on the Grocery Line was born.
To get a first-hand glimpse of how the pandemic is "on the other side" of the food table, read his blog at www.lifeonthegroceryline.com.