Allergy Story #1

I don’t know how many of these there will be, but there isn’t much else to this post than a recap of what happened to me at work.

I work at a large chain grocery store. I’m not going to say which one, because, honestly? No one cares which one I work at. They’re all the same. They sell food and basic house supplies, have a bakery and deli portion, and cash registers that seem more inconvenient than helpful when the mad rush comes in. And it’s not the focus of this meager story; it’s the setting.

So. I was working my usual work, throwing TV dinners and chicken nuggets in the freezer section. Suddenly, one of the department managers came up to me, talking away on his ear-walkie. Based on his end of the conversation, it sounded like I was going to be sent to another department that needs help. Which was normal, since it wouldn’t have been the first time it happened. He finished that conversation, then turned to me and said, “Okay, they need you over at bakery.”

Bakery. Where they handle cake and bread and pastries that are loaded with my allergens. If I didn’t know better in the state of Texas, I would’ve asked someone to shoot me then and there.

I could’ve said that I couldn’t do that due to my allergies, but I am still fairly new to all of this. I’ve been so focused on the health aspect, I haven’t been that exposed to the social aspects of dealing with food allergies, outside of rejecting every notion to go to a restaurant or movie (which I’m trying to cope with but that’s another story). Add that along with my tendency to be nice and not disobey orders from the higher-ups, this situation turned into an…interesting one.

Of course, I was a little optimistic. I survived seeing the latest Star Wars movie without needing a trip to the hospital. And I thought that since I’d be forced to wear gloves, then maybe there wouldn’t be a reaction. At least not a terrible one, right?

Ha, I was wrong.

Apparently when I have an airborne reaction, it’s to everything. That includes both corn and wheat. No one allergy has an exclusive reaction.

I lasted maybe forty minutes top inside the bakery, shoving bread into plastic bags. By the time I ducked out of there for my official break, my left cheek was warm and my throat was itchy. Even my coworker, whom I begged to switch places with, noticed that I was looking funny. That is never a good sign. I was so freaked out that I think I cursed aloud when he said that.

I survived, though. I washed my hands and arms thoroughly of any food dust, ate an apple, drank water, and calmed down. After the break was up, I was back in my own area and resumed my normal duties.

If I had one regret, it’s that I wish the result was less embarrassing. I’ll admit that I forced myself into that situation because I was too awkward to tell them no. But still, I didn’t like having the managers coming up to me and commenting on my reaction afterwards. Sure, they’re coming from a place of concern, but it’s still embarrassing to face them and know that they have a bullet point in their mental list labeled, “allergic to stuff, be wary,” when they see me.

And I also wish that I could have helped out longer. For me, it’s worse when someone says that they’re going to help and then bail out halfway through, versus not helping out at all. They can say that I at least tried, and that was good enough, but it still makes me feel guilty for not being of more use because of a stupid allergy.

Oh well. Live and learn.

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