Corona virus times – 30 March 2020
As long as I’m at home, avoiding the news except for the daily 8 pm broadcast, and getting lots of funny videos from friends on whatsapp, it seems easier to feel optimistic and upbeat. But today’s short trip to the post office and supermarket made me feel like I was in a war zone.
Somehow, I had managed to avoid the supermarket for the past 2 weeks. So, I missed the empty shelves due to hoarding, I missed the feeling of walking into the store and seeing what had changed:
- Shopping carts available without needing a coin
- Hand sanitizing station at the entrance
- Transparent windows for the cashiers
- Yellow tape on the floor marking how far 1.5 meters distance is
- How people, (me too!), react suspiciously to each other
It could be that I felt so strange because of the weather, too. It had been sunny for a week in the Netherlands, something that is relatively new for us, especially in March, as I hardly remember a whole week of sun, unless it’s accompanied by temperatures below zero. However this past week of spring was relatively warm (above 10 degrees Celcius –that’s almost a heatwave for us Dutchies), and I went outside a couple of times to take myself on a quick walk in the countryside, or out for a trash run. Besides that, I got my vitamin D by sitting in our protected back garden for a few minutes each day.
But today was different, somehow. The grey clouds looming with a hint of rain, the small argument I had with my daughter about whether or not vegetarian chicken schnitzels were a good food choice for dinner. “Well, it’s my turn to cook,” she said. “So, take it or leave it.” Maybe it was also because I realized I’d lost my last facemask, and I’d have to wear my scarf over my face like a bank robber.
It felt strange already as I was walking the short walk to the supermarket. I took the route via the nature path, but realized I was walking with my head down and not even noticing – or barely – the beautiful blooming yellow flowers next to the canal. ‘Shame on me,’ I reflected. ‘Not very mindful, are you now?’ And I hurried on, thinking maybe I’d take a closer look on my way back.
At the post office, there was a woman in front of me with a million packages while I was happy she was still in business, and wondered what those packages were, more importantly, I worried about her little boy in the red coat, who was wandering all over the store. When he sneezed, I pulled my scarf closer over my nose and tried not to breathe in. When she left, soon afterwards, with him in tow, I waited a minute or two for the viruses to drop to the ground, before approaching the counter. I avoided small talk, and didn’t take a receipt, feeling socially inappropriate, but self-protective.
At the supermarket, I squeezed in the entrance, avoiding people left and right, and kept my head down, scarf up on my nose and left my gloves on, grateful it was winter and this didn’t look strange at all.
I rapidly gathered all the items on the list and some extra chocolate and ice cream, because, well… Corona. Then I waited at the cash register, at least 2 meters from the guy before me.
But when he was done paying, he was still standing there, packing up his groceries in the slow way that men have probably developed in this Corona time, when they are so happy to be finally out of the house that they take as long as possible to do any tasks that gets them out of the house.
So, the cashier put my items on the far side of the counter – and now came my big dilemma – do I wait for him to finish bagging his stuff, or push past him, avoiding breathing and go around to pick up my groceries? Since I wanted to get the heck out of there, and – well, ice cream, I chose the second option. “Excuse me,” I mumbled and moved around him, keeping my shopping cart in between us.
I finally left, feeling immensely glad the deed was done. I did mindfully manage to see that one of the neighbors had a beautiful blossoming cherry tree in his backyard. I smiled at the older couple that passed me with a wide berth.
When I got home, I washed not only my hands, but my gloves too with hot water and soap.
I think maybe it’s time to start ordering food online.