a grocery store in a pandemic
Saturday, April 4 2020
For dinner tonight, Gretchen wanted to get carry-out from the Garden Café. This meant we'd be really wading into society for the first time in nearly two weeks (Charles' doomed veterinary visit doesn't really count, since we never had to get close to any other person that day). Gretchen phoned in our order a little after 6:30pm. The soup of the day was black bean, so I had Gretchen get me two of those, as well as a Beyond Burger in a patty with faux cheese. Gretchen got herself a cæsar salad, a double order of roasted potato wedges (half of which were for me) and some sort of kale dish.
The roads were unusually empty on the drive out to Woodstock. On the way, we impulsively decided to stop at the Hurley Ridge Hannaford for some much-needed supplies, since neither of us had been to a grocery store in nearly two weeks. The parking lot was distressingly full of other shoppers and a lone teenager skateboarded some distance away. There were only a few people in Hannaford who were not wearing any sort of facial covering, and this included us. But people were good about maintaining six feet of distance from everyone else. Our goal was to get in and get out, and that was what we did. Gretchen focused on produce, while I ran off to get things like cereal and two twelve packs of Hazy Little Thing IPA (I'd been getting by on unsatisfactory Mexican beers for most of the past two weeks). I was pleased to see large plexiglass sneeze guards had been put up between the cashier and the customers, which lowered the risk that cashiers would quickly become new superspreaders of the contagion. Additionally, the cashiers either wore strapped-on facemasks or (in the case of ours) a plastic fold-down whole-face shield. The whole time we were in that store, it felt as if we were in a war zone full of booby traps, the kind that attach to your body and do not go off immediately. I couldn't imagine working in that environment. I suppose it matters less to the younger employees, but there were also a number of older employees, some of whom weren't wearing masks.
In Woodstock, we parked at the lot at the end of Old Forge Road and I walked the dogs in the adjacent field while Gretchen went to fetch the food, which she'd already paid for on the phone. After walking the dogs, Gretchen still wasn't back, so I loaded the car up with the dogs and drove up to the front of the café, where a number of youthful people were doing typical youthful things. There was even a busker playing guitar in the village green. A couple of friends were there as well, and while nobody was hugging or making other forms of contact, they didn't seem to be practicing social distancing either. None of this is to say I'm a scold about such things, but the seriousness with which these protocols are being practiced in society has a direct relationship to how we as a society are doing to successfully make it to the other side, whatever that is.
Eventually I realized Gretchen must be in the café chit chatting with the staff, so I went inside. Fortunately, everyone there (including Gretchen) seemed to be practicing social distancing. I was momentarily alarmed to see Gretchen touch her face after having just been in a grocery store. But it turned out she'd just washed her hands.
On the drive back home, Gretchen told me of the interesting consequences of the expanded unemployment benefits for those laid off during the pandemic. The Garden was forced to furlough two thirds of their staff, and all those people are now (or soon will be) receiving those expanded benefits, which in all likelihood will be better than what their salaries had been, and now they have time to go hiking, smoke dope, and pursue creative projects they'd never had the time for. Meanwhile, the third still working to provide the carry-out-only service continue making their old salaries and have to work in conditions of decidedly-increased danger.
It was a fairly warm evening, and on the drive home as we passed the various wetlands along the way, the cheerful sound of spring peepers filled the car.
Back at the house, we rinsed off all the items destined for the refrigerator. I wanted beer, so I opened up the beer box and retrieved a single can. Then I put that box (as well as other boxes) aside to air out before handling them further. Then I washed my hands thoroughly. The sanitary protocols at the Garden are such that we treated all of the carry-out as presumptively decontaminated. Even if it were contaminated, there's not much danger from ingesting coronavirus directly. The idea is to keep it out of your lungs.
Celeste with a dog toy resembling a large coronavirus. Behind her is are two transcribed arrangements of the letters for the New York Times word game "Spelling Bee."
I had to walk the dogs again today. At the wall, Neville and Ramona investigate the presence of a possible chipmunk. Click to enlarge.
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