No one could have prepared us for what life would look like today. Our day to day is surreal. Simple tasks are far more complicated. One doesn’t just go for a walk. Or do a “quick” run to the grocery store. One prepares themselves, physically, mentally and emotionally. Every time we leave the house, we sign up for a pilgrimage.
I just wanted some carrots.
I wanted roasted carrots with my chicken yesterday. It seemed like a good idea because I’ve been neglecting my vegetables. The grocery store is just a few blocks away, so it would be reasonable to expect a short journey. Of course, I knew better, because I am living history, I am living during a global pandemic. But I wanted those carrots. So I grabbed my coat and headed out the door. I was immediately hit by unexpectedly warm air and was genuinely confused. How is it so warm? It then occurred to me that it’s May, not week 458372 of winter. But how would I know? I’ve been stuck in groundhog day for 7 weeks and 2 days. I carried on towards the store and ran into my neighbor. We greeted each other from an appropriately safe distance and he asked me where I was headed. I told him about the carrots. He wished me luck, then chuckled, I assumed about having to wish me luck in carrot shopping, and told me to stay safe. Because that’s what people say to each other now, every time anyone goes anywhere, to do anything. I put my headphones in and carried on to the store, bobbing my head to Survivor’s “Eye of The Tiger”. I got this song for inspiration during my morning runs. I haven’t ran for a few days due to a twisted ankle and it occurred to me that this trip of five blocks is the most I’ve moved in days, so it’s basically a workout, therefore, the song applies. I noticed some people doing very little to keep their distance–it appears the warm weather made them forget. So I began to play my favorite new game of “where are they walking” so I could strategically plan which direction to side shuffle, something I’d gotten really good at during my runs.
I reached the grocery store and stood in the outside lineup, appropriately distant from my neighbors. I watched the door, patiently waiting for the nice lady inside to usher me in when it’s safe to do so. Suddenly, I heard a noise behind me. A man tripped and fell a few feet away. My initial instinct was to run over and help him but I remembered that he, like any of us, could be a carrier of a virus that caused a global pandemic. So instead, I simply froze and stared at him, not knowing what to do. Everyone else stood frozen as well, I suspected they too, were conflicted. Great. This thing turned me into a terrible person.
The grocery store was pretty full and nobody was adhering to the red tapes on the floor. I suppressed my anger and brought the focus back to my mission. Get the carrots and get the #$%^ out of dodge. I knew where the carrots were, but I had to wait for a handful of people to clear the aisles before it was safe to proceed. Waiting is part of the experience, it’s just what we do now. I finally got to my carrots. Success. Then I remembered that we’re low on bread. I was torn. I stood in the aisle, wrestling with the dilemma of heading back to pay for the carrots or playing the “where are they walking” a bit longer. The bread aisle looked deserted, so I decided to go for it. I picked up the bread and turned to see a woman standing a few feet away, inspecting a box of cookies. I turned to walk in the opposite direction and saw a man reading a label on a pastry package. Crap. Cornered in a Bread and Bakery section. The woman looked apologetic and mouthed ‘sorry’. I felt bad that she felt bad about having to take a few minutes to ponder which cookies to buy.
After a few minutes I was free to side shuffle my way to the cash register. I stood on the red tape in front of the cashier and remembered that we’re also low on eggs. Screw eggs. Sacrifices have to be made. I payed and left the grocery store with a deep exhale. Freedom. Looked at the time–it’s been an hour. I thought back to a time when a grocery shopping was not a journey of courage and self-discovery. Warm air, confused again, already forgot its May.