Working From Work

My wife loves coupons and sales. It is almost a game to her. She clips and browses the grocery store ads. It is something she does well and it brings her satisfaction.

The novel coronavirus has really crushed that pastime. Grocery stores just don’t have sales, the ads are sad, single page reminders of what they used to be. Moreover, we only go for things when it is needed.

Together apart, you know?

She has gotten used to paying more for groceries; she doesn’t like it, but she lives with it. It kind of evens out, because we buy a lot less. I went to the store to pick up a few essentials. Enough for three or four days. We have become adept at planning menus.

As long as we were paying more than we wanted for groceries I thought I would buy a bottle of Jack Daniels. It costs a little more, but, hey, spend it like you got it, right?

I took my place in line, maintaining proper social distancing, bandana face mask in place. I was a responsible shopper.

The woman in front of me had several bouquets of flowers. They were big, colorful and fragrant. The aroma was overpowering, the pollen made my eyes water and burn. When I got to the register, when it was finally my turn to pay, the cashier was sniffling behind her plexiglass screen. Her eyes were bloodshot and she looked to be suffering.

In her misery, she forgot to remove the anti-theft device from my bottle of Jack Daniels, though I didn’t notice it. It was the last thing she scanned and I paid for my purchase. When I was loading the bags in my cart I saw the little black ring around the neck of the bottle.

I turned to face her, raising the bottle. She started sneezing. A long cascade of chest wracking, convulsive, bend at the waist sneezes. She looked at me, a little angry, a little afraid.

“I’m not sick, that lady just bought a bunch of flowers.” She said.

“I’m not worried, I just want this taken off.” I said, holding up my bottle and showing her the security device. Her relief was obvious.

Even through my impromptu face mask I could smell the pollen, feel the sting in my eyes, I knew what had caused her response. She was worried I was going to complain to the store and she would be forced to take time off and self-quarantine.

All I wanted was a few groceries and a bottle of “the good stuff.” I didn’t want to cause any problems. I certainly didn’t think this poor woman was a threat to me. I thanked her and went on my way.

It is funny how everybody has become such a medical expert during this global scare. People seem eager to diagnose seasonal allergies as the plague. I read Facebook posts from people I know talking about what a farce this is. They are certain we are being duped by the “establishment because of a common cold.” People have somehow become experts in the transmission and severity of infectious diseases without all the toil of medical school and post-graduate struggle.

When this started I had never heard of a pandemic, a Corona Virus, or safe social distancing and I’m still no expert, but I stand on the marks on the floor waiting my turn, and I only go to the store when I need to. In so many ways the virus has changed the way we do everything, the way we think about everything.

People are becoming germaphobic right in front of me, washing their hands until they’re raw, red and cracking. Which might make more sense than the people who are so eager to prove what a load of rubbish this is they will picket government overreach, packed into their little conga line. They are willing to risk their lives to “prove” the virus is a government hoax.

Caught in the middle are the people who need to work, whose job doesn’t allow them to work from home or practice safe distancing. People who stand on their feet all day, and face the serious and the frivolous in a constant stream of humanity.

Those are the people I worry about. There are no special shopping hours for cashiers, nobody is rushing to make PPE for grocery stockers. If I’ve learned anything from this it is how important everybody can be.

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