Inform, Entertain, Inspire
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Indiana Bus Driver, Instacart Shopper Reflects On Working Through A Pandemic

(Justin Hicks/IPB News)

It’s been a year of living through the COVID-19 pandemic in Indiana. Throughout it, many front-line workers confronted personal fears to keep schools and businesses running. Melissa Rose from Valparaiso was one of them, working both as a bus driver and as a personal shopper for the grocery delivery app, Instacart. Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Justin Hicks worked with Melissa to produce this story.

My day usually starts very early. I'm up at 4 a.m. and I'm out of the house by 6 every morning, [to] get on my school bus. Sometimes that drive to school, especially in the wintertime, can be tricky at best.

Not much has changed in the world of the school bus.

When we did go back to school in August after being gone for March, I was petrified. I'm expected to go be locked in a box with 40 kids. Crazy, right? But, knock on wood, it has been OK for me so far – but the anxiety? Oh boy. Oh boy.

I try to make a point of always having a smile – although now it’s masked, but there's a smile in my voice. 

"Good morning! Oh I love your new hair, oh, I love your coat." Whatever it is, that little bit of time that I get to be a bright spot totally can change my whole day too.

It's been nearly a year since Indiana reported its first case and first death from COVID-19, and we’re still in the middle of our "new normal." We want to hear your stories about what’s changed for you in the last year. We're gathering stories of the people we've lost, the triumphs, the recoveries, and the changes Hoosiers have experienced in the last year. Share your story by calling 765-228-2129 and leaving a voicemail, or by uploading audio files.

It sounds bad no matter how I say it but, you know, I used to love, love, love to see my kids every day on the bus. Loved it. Couldn't wait. After summer break, I'd be like, yay I get to see, you know – but now I – I'm kind of scared of the kids? I'm anxious around them. 

I'm afraid of getting sick. That's it. I'm afraid of getting sick. 

On a typical day, I’m off the bus at 9 a.m. and I try to do at least three, maybe four hours of Instacarting. 

People don’t understand a lot about how the gig economy works. It’s just somebody on the other end of an app and their food shows up. That’s just not the case. A lot of work goes into it.

We're kind of like the unsung hero. I remember everybody was “Oh, grocery store workers, they're right there at the front line.” And meanwhile Instacart shoppers were just furiously combing the aisles in the background, getting it done. But I would never want to take away from you know, cashiers and stockers and everybody else. We're all in it together.

[Instacart has] hired thousands and thousands and thousands of new shoppers. Completely out of control hiring. If you sign somebody on and they do a certain amount of batches, they're gonna pay you $725. People go nuts for that. But every time you sign up another shopper, you're throwing another piranha in the tank. There's somebody else now that you have to fight against to get what few orders there are. It's taken everything away from the old shoppers, and it's hard now to earn, it really is. It's hard to earn money now.

READ MORE: How Will Indiana Distribute COVID-19 Vaccines? Here's What You Need To Know

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on COVID-19 and other statewide issues.

I am optimistic. I have to be optimistic. Pessimism and I don't get along real well. You know, we've had a bad turn. My husband recently lost his job of many, many years on top of everything else.

But I've also learned to look at the bright side, which I never used to really do. I used to just [think] if it was bad, it was all going to be bad until it wasn't. And I hope it sticks around. I hope I stay this person. I hope I can remain the person that can roll with the punches. 

I’m going to be OK at home with my husband, being quiet, being still. We’re going to make it. Somehow, we’re going to make it through this.

Melissa Rose worked with Justin Hicks to produce this story.

Contact reporter Justin at or follow him on Twitter at @Hicks_JustinM.

Related Content