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Grocery Shopping in the Time of COVID-19

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Who would ever have imagined that grocery shopping could be such a stressful experience? Or that there would be a dozen articles published with conflicting advice about how to do it?

Go now, quick, before there are more cases!

Wait as long as you possibly can.

Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask.

Run in, grab a few things, make a dash for the exit. Stock up with enough to last you for an age.

Disinfect your groceries, don’t disinfect your groceries.

Just making my list this morning was harrowing. Putting it all in order so that I can make a direct run down every aisle, not retracing my steps, not pondering brands or quantity, avoiding other humans at all costs. How fast can I select a mango? Will there even be mangos? If there aren’t mangos, should I go for pineapple or oranges? Will there even be pineapples or oranges?

And marshmallows. Where do they keep the marshmallows? I never buy marshmallows. Do I really need them? My neighbor and I had a fire pit the other night, and we roasted the rock-hard ones she found in the back of her pantry. Actually, we had two separate fire pits, eight feet apart so neither one of us would be the cause of the other’s death.

Strange Times, Indeed

The last time I went grocery shopping, I stood in front of the honey jars and cried. I couldn’t decide which kind to buy, and I was scared. I was taking too long. Every other shopper looked like a landmine. A safe and familiar place had become a dangerous battleground.

Today I’m especially nervous because I hadn’t planned to go, so I’m not mentally prepared. Though some of my neighbors are shopping every few days, it’s been two-plus weeks for me, and I could easily make it another week. But my prescription has run out, so I’ve got to enter the combat zone anyway. May as well suck it up and do this thing.

I’m going to wear a mask, even though it’ll make me feel silly. Plus they seem to have become controversial, as has everything since the ascension of the Divider in Chief. I don’t want to get into the politics of masks here, I’ll just note that it’s criminally obscene that our government cannot equip our hospitals — at least not if a particular governor isn’t bowing down to the man who fancies himself King of America.

Right now, I cannot even think about that man’s incompetence and purposeful viciousness. I need all my energy to confront the produce aisle.

Tony’s Trials: A Happy Ending

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The first person I encountered today was Tony, our mail carrier. Tony has been delivering my mail for twenty-plus years, and he is a model of what someone in the service sector should be.

Tony is thoughtful and conscientious and kind. Whenever his head bobs past my kitchen window, the Andy of Mayberry theme starts whistling in my head. They just don’t make ’em like Tony anymore. He knows everyone’s names, welcomes us back from vacation, and lets us know when a box has been on a neighbor’s porch for more than a day. He always points out when someone has my address wrong, but still delivers the misaddressed mail. He once alerted me when my next door neighbor’s cat had escaped and was meowing to get back inside the house.

Four years ago, the Postal Service fired Tony, ostensibly for “performance issues,” but we had our doubts. Was it a coincidence that he was approaching the date that his full retirement benefits would kick in? I called the local letter carrier’s union and found out this sort of thing had happened before.

The new carriers were surly and uncommunicative, tromped on my flowers, and often mis-delivered the mail — which wasn’t surprising given that they were constantly talking on their cell phones and not paying attention to their jobs.

After a letter-writing campaign to the local paper, a petition drive outside the grocery co-op, and several neighbors testifying at his hearing with the threat of picketing the Post Office, we were able to get Tony reinstated with his full benefits.

Every day I see Tony coming up the sidewalk, I smile. I love a happy ending.

Thanks for the Daily Writing Prompt, WordPress Gods: “Write about the first person you encountered today.”

Who made you smile today?

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