Before the pandemic I was the woman who loved to go grocery shopping. I loved reading labels and browsing the international aisle where it was my mission to bring home something I’ve never tried before. Of course, now we’re encouraged not to stick around inside the store any longer than necessary and to not touch stuff we’re not going to purchase. The Covid-19 cases and deaths have been spiking again in my state, probably---I'm guessing---from people getting careless around family and friends or getting pandemic fatigue so yesterday when I went shopping I was on high alert.
I was shocked to see so many shelves empty again…like
they were at the beginning of the pandemic. Only instead of hand sanitizer,
toilet paper, peanut butter and flour being in short supply it was canned goods, creamers and hand
soaps among other things. There was so much open space in the canned vegetable section that I panicked and bought a
two cans of Lima beans. I haven’t eaten Lima beans since the
Carter administration. But I heard the voices in my head of my parents talking about the hardships and shortages they lived with during WWII and I ended up pandemic buying things I don't need in brands I've never used.
It’s just so weird shopping now, mask in place while trying to stay six feet from others wearing masks. And for the very few not wearing masks I try to hold my breath when passing by them. Most of them give off such negative vibes that I bristle at the sight of those unmasked faces. Yes, yes, I know some people have health issues that prevent them from wearing a mask but when I tried to look up what health conditions we’re talking about I found out that no U.S. health agency has specified any particular health issue where exemptions should apply other than being unconscious or otherwise not be able to remove a mask on your own. Each state has their own ambiguous or vague mask exemption clause if they mandate wearing them at all.
I was in a checkout line when I got irritated with the
young guy in front of me who had his nose buried so far in his phone that he
wasn’t moving forward when the line ahead of him moved. There was easily
fifteen feet between him and the next shopper. He was either playing Candy
Crush or sexting with his girlfriend and since I’ve been reading a lot of
romance books lately I opted to believe that he was doing the latter. So I cut him some
lack and allowed his chuckles to add fuel to my imagination, giving me more patience while I wished I was tall enough to read over his shoulder. And it was a good thing
I did put on my serenity hat because his eyes barely left his phone as he got
checked out and he pushed his cart out of the lane. He’s probably still sexting
at the front of the store, where I last saw him. He had beer in his cart, chips and condoms. (Okay, I made the condoms up but he really was still in the store with his phone when I left.)
There were eight lanes open at the store and I got the one where a deaf
mute guy was working the cash register. I pitched a mini-fit inside my head
because since the pandemic began my social life depends on getting a little friendly conversation
from store personal and this guy wouldn't even make eye contact. I’ve been through
his lane before but this time I was a Needy Nellie and he wasn’t going to be
the one to serve me a heaping of much needed but meaningless chit-chat. And apparently
I had used up all my patience on lover-boy and his phone so when the cashier took
all my frozen food out of the store-provided clear plastic bags to keep them cold and he didn’t bother to put them back in after scanning them---he just chucked them into a paper bag---I was super-sized annoyed. But
even if I had complained and he could read lips there was no way he could have done it through a mask. When I bag my frozen stuff I line up all
the codes so they can easily be seen and scanned with a
hand scanner and in all the years I’ve been doing that, no one have ever taken my
frozen food out of those clear plastic bags. I truly understand why the guy avoided making eye contact. He probably sees a lot of annoyed and angry faces and has no
idea why. And don't remind me that I need to make allowances for the possibility that his hand scanner didn't work; I'm holding on to my grumpy mode for a little while longer.
For a while the store had a cashier who had no arm from the elbow down. I had gone through her line a couple of times before I realized she was scanning and bagging groceries one-handed and was doing it more efficiently that many two handed workers. She was fast and had a friendly persona and I wished she’d stayed around. She was inspirational. Back in those days, I had a book on how to do things one-handed because I was trying to learn how so I could teach my husband those skills after his stroke. It took a lot practice to do what she accomplished.
Back then (and maybe now) the store took part in a program that helps physically and mentally disabled people train for various jobs around the community, trying to find them a good fit. The program, rather than the employer insures, pays and manages any issues that come up with their charges. I used to know a twenty-something girl with Down Syndrome in the program and she got a permanent job offer putting parts in plastic bags. She absolutely loved her job. The deaf-mute guy, if he's in that program, will get his work evaluated after x-number of weeks and be written up as needing to learn to make eye contact. If he can't do it, then they'd move him to a job that doesn't put him face-to-face with the public. And if I was in a program like that I’d have to work on being less grumpy while shopping during a pandemic.
There I did it, I wrote my grumpy mood away. I found my empathy and reminded myself that the world does not revolve around my wants and needs. And for the bonus round, with any luck I might discover that I actually like Lima beans. ©