Emma Belanger stands outside Cook’s Ace Hardware in Gray, where she works as a cashier. Before the coronavirus outbreak, there were four cashiers at the store, but now she is the only one still working there. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Editor’s note: The Virus Diaries is a series in which Mainers talk about how they are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

If times were normal, Emma Belanger of Gray would be traveling to three different schools for classes, throwing the shot put and discus for her Gray-New Gloucester High track and field team, and working an occasional shift as a cashier at Cook’s Ace Hardware Store in Gray.

But schooling is now remote, the spring sports season has been canceled, and the occasional cashier shifts are now almost daily.

“It is very stressful,” Belanger said. “I have to focus on schoolwork in the morning and then I have to go to work. This has been affecting me since the shutdown started.

“There are normally four cashiers and (now) I am the only one left. Two of the part-time cashiers also work at Gray Shop n Save and they have been at the grocery store since the shutdown. The other cashier is staying home to maintain her health.

“I usually work five days a week. Usually the manager and two or three other (employees) are in the store. The store is a little busier than usual. It doesn’t surprise me because a lot of people are home and have nothing to do.”


Belanger, 17, has plenty to do. When the Press Herald contacted her, she was busy writing an essay for her class at Southern Maine Community College.

“I am taking an English class at SMCC, and I am taking English, math, science and social studies at Gray New Gloucester High School. I am also going to Portland Arts and Technology High School for welding. The workload is about the same as if I were in school right now.

“I was planning on doing outdoor track this spring, but COVID-19 had other plans for me. I am missing seeing my teachers and not being able to take my certification test for welding.”

But her plans for the fall have not changed.

“I have committed to Washington County Community College (in Calais) for welding technology.”

Belanger will eventually test for her welding certificate, and she said her school is planning a graduation ceremony at the end of June. But, for now, the days are full, with school, then work, then homework.

“Most people tell me, ‘Well, at least you’re making money.’ They don’t understand how working pretty much every day is affecting me. I’m always tired, I never want to do schoolwork and I’m constantly stressed.

“Please, people, just stay home, so everything will go back to how it was before.”

Do you have a story to share about how you are affected by the coronavirus outbreak? Email us at virus@pressherald.com

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