You may find yourself out at your local supermarket.
You may find yourself among your neighbors and locals, some not wearing mask and others still masking and gelling.
You may find yourself lost in a sea of rude, unhygienic, and anti-social behavior.
And you may ask yourself, “Well…how did I get here?”
I know exactly how I got here. I never really left.
Same as it ever was.
Same as it ever was.
Same as it ever was.
- David Byrne
I’ll try to keep this short.
This week I ventured out to my local Wegman’s with my cheerful mask that has little yellow rubber duckies on it tucked in my purse. Feeling good for getting out into the sun on my lunch break, I turned NPR on in the car. I started listening to Terry Gross talking to Clint Smith about his newest book, How the Word is Passed, reckoning with the history of slavery. The discussion was getting good. Smith was talking about his observation of two white women, who had made a pilgrimage to Monticello, the historic home of Thomas Jefferson, now a federally-maintained tourist attraction, how they had flown in from out of town, rented hotel rooms, rented a car to get there, paid the cost of admission, only to be flabbergasted when they learned that the third U.S. President that they had revered and learned about all through school was a slave owner, owned a plantation, had a long-term sexual relationship with one of his enslaved young girls that began when she was only sixteen years old, that he was the father of several children by this same enslaved girl later on, and so much more that doesn’t appear in text books or a part of the lore that passes as history in classrooms across America.
I pull my ears away from Fresh Air and I begin to look around the parking lot to see if folks are wearing masks coming out of the store, going into the store. It’s a mix. So I bring my mask and sure enough, on the door, Wegman’s gives notice that fully vaccinated people are not required to wear masks indoors, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). I go ahead and put mine on anyway. I am fully vaccinated, but I’ve grown accustomed to the mask for now.
What did I walk into? It may as well have been a full on bacchanalia as far as I was concerned. Did the forced preventive public health behaviors of the pandemic teach us nothing? Not only were people seeming genuinely just rude, rolling carts so close and fast that you had better pull your fingers from the sides of the cart handle lest your knuckles get nicked, but before I even got into the store, a man literally hocked up a loogie and spit it out on the drive walking a head of me. Um, yea.
We are a couple of weeks beyond that reckless with no warning CDC announcement of all masks off, all the time, everywhere. Who are these people that are coughing around me in the fresh berries section and not covering up or even attempting to cough in the bend of their arm? Next up we have the woman using her saliva on her fingertips to pry open the stubborn plastic bags in the produce aisle. You may say, her spit, her bag, but it is her spit and everything else she touches all throughout that store. Then we have the woman with the young children roaming around touching everything, as if this was the first field trip out of the house since March 2020. They’re touching EVERYTHING and all I can think is, oh, the little, but powerful germ factories that kids carry everywhere. I grab my produce items and skedaddle to pick up a few more items - remember I am on lunch break.
Now I am standing in the aisle looking at items on the shelf comparing prices and counting grams of saturated fat when a woman walks and stands between me and the shelves. I have my mask on, but you can still see my eyebrows curling up and the contempt in my eyes. “Oh, sorry,” she says. Oh sorry? I am 6 feet tall and let’s not discuss how many pounds. There is no way you did not see me. Next aisle, bulk items - Again, the saliva – what in the actual freak is going on in the bulk aisle? Same technique, saliva to the fingertips to open plastic bags, but in addition to this, the same hand just freely dug into the bulk container to grab a few sample cashews. What? I kid you not. By this time I’m just through. I told you this post would be quick - almost as quick as my trip to the store.
I quickly went and grabbed some almond milk, some rice, and a bag of beans and I made my way to the checkout. Still observing the 6ft. apart signage on the floor, I waited my turn, keeping a comfortable distance from the woman ahead of me. This looked good, stable, and in order, except when it was my turn to load up, the conveyer belt was wet with spills from customers that came before me. “How are you today? Did you find everything that you needed?” “Um, can you please wipe the counter down?”
Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.
- Talking Heads
I made it back to my car without witnessing further incidents. I pulled off my mask and grabbed my packet of hand wipes. I scrubbed my hands, wiped the clump of cloths across and around my steering wheel and tuned into the radio only to realize that by this time the interview with Clint Smith was ending. I shook my head and thought about how it has taken hardly any time at all for people to revert back to being rude and nasty. It's a wonder that we haven't suffered from other wide-spread infectious diseases from just visiting the grocery store alone. So much for a "new normal". We can't seem to shake the old nasty.