Two weeks in social isolation and I’ve already started walking around in the house like a zombie craving a face to face, conversation that is. And to think at the beginning of the crisis, I was looking forward to getting more writing done. I’m sure I’ve done a lot less. I never realized how unsetting and pit of the stomach troubling it would be when every communication screamed new corona virus updates. In the past, crises seemed to drive people together to seek comfort and support. This one has pushed us apart, driving us to seek more virtual comfort and contact…a poor substitute for the real thing.
But, I reasoned that at least we could still go to the store and buy groceries. So I grabbed at the opportunity like a drowning man reaching for a life preserver. I naively thought I’d just go to Wegman’s, one of the larger stores in the area, and get everything I’d need. When I arrived, ropes were set up to guide the serpentine lines of shoppers waiting to check out. What was this? Had everyone suddenly gone mad? I was uneasy, but confident the lines would be shorter when I was ready to leave. I turned into the fish and meat aisle – bare shelves. I felt I had wandered into a black hole and been warped back to Mother Russia. I reversed direction. Get to the staples – bread and milk. All the bread was gone. I headed over to the milk aisle. Only two left of the variety I needed. As I reached in, another beefier hand grabbed one. What was this relief I felt at scoring a half-gallon of milk? I kept wanting to slap my head and yell, wake up, wake up. Fool, you’ve only managed to get one item. I had an inspiration. I’d make my own bread. I desperately looked through the refrigerated glass cases. No more fresh yeast left. Picking up speed, I headed for the baking aisle looking to pick up some of their pre-made mixes. I scanned the shelves. It looked like disappointment was going to be my new best friend. Everything was mostly gone except for a few exotic items I had never heard of.
I watched shoppers with crazed eyes and carts full of toilet paper cruise by. Toilet paper? How is that connected to this whole virus epidemic? Out of curiosity I headed for the paper aisle. Toilet paper and Kleenex were totally gone. The next aisle was cleaning products and hand sanitizers. Everything was sold out except for things like furniture polish and stainless-steel cleaner. I guess I know what people are not doing during this crisis. I walked to the end of the self-checkout line and did a count. There were thirteen carts in front of me. I looked down. One item. Decision time. I put the milk back and walked out empty-handed. I’d be smart and come back when they opened first thing in the morning.
I arrived just before 7:00 am, curious what dozens of people were doing standing outside. I slowed as I approached the entrance. Not just standing, but lined up and waiting to get in and nobody would dare try to cut in that solemn line. Another choice. Is this really going to be the new normal? I hung my head and joined the nervous queue.