Virus Diary

I’m one week into quarantine- it’s the cool thing to do these days. Unfortunately last week I spent a BUNCH of time with someone who now has symptoms, so this choice isn’t totally driven by paranoia. Some people say that social distancing could last 8 weeks. In case it goes on that long, I want to record my last memories of society. Here are a few stories about people I probably accidentally infected in the couple days after I had exposure and before I learned there was anything to worry about:

The Family

I was buying 3 things at a thrift store (maybe not the smartest store to be in, in retrospect.) The items were a huge clear plastic storage container, a video and a knick knack. It was near closing time and the store was empty. The only other people I encountered while there was a family with 3 kids. They were blocking off the toy section by playing with the toys all over the floor. It was a huge mess- the result of a whole day’s worth of children pulling toys off the shelves. I joked with the dad that his kids sure made a big mess and he laughed but I’m confident the joke didn’t land and he had just laughed to be polite. I couldn’t get in to see the toys is the point, but I was friendly and moved on. I was at least a little cautious and didn’t want to be touching any toys that day anyway.

So I brought my 3 items up to the cash. There was only one cashier. To start, I held up the video and asked the price. It was more than I wanted to pay so I put it down and reached for my next item. Suddenly the cashier disappeared and another one took her spot at the cash beside her. It was confusing, since I was mid transaction, but I went with it. I backed up my cart to go to the other cash…

…And stubbed my foot. I had no idea that the family had come up behind me with their monster stroller. Being Canadian, I said “Oh! Sorry!” even though I was the one with the sore foot. The mom just stared at me…

… And proceeded to the cash that had just opened. AKA she took my place and now I was lined up behind her. The dad smiled like an oblivious goof and the kids ran around happily. Already I was in strong WTF territory.

She started pulling clothes from the stroller and piling them on the counter. WHO KNEW that a stroller could hold so much stuff! I guess it wasn’t really made for a baby, but rather a large toddler, and since the large toddler was running around, there was lots of room for clothes. She finished pulling out her huge pile and the cashier said “okay, that’s it?” She said “No. These are my returns.”

Can I add here that it had been a VERY stressful week. Someone close to me was very (not virus) sick and I’d spent the week running around, calling doctors… I don’t want to get into the details and the fact that I have to hide the details speaks to the seriousness and stress around this situation. I go to the thrift store to find treasures and get endorphin rushes- I was there to relax. As I stood watching this woman pull out item after item, I could feel my anxiety rising.

I was really trying to be cool so I stood there a long time while these returns were processed. The family was from another culture so I erred on the side of kindness. If they were white I would have said something RIGHT AWAY. But I waited. I was just glad to be anywhere that wasn’t related to the stress of the week.

The woman reached into her clown car stroller and started pulling out her purchases- an equally huge pile of clothes. I then noticed that her kids were all carrying toys they intended to buy, and one of them had a TOY SHOPPING CART filled with toys.

I cracked. SOMETIMES I go into “stand up” mode. Like I’m Seinfeld making an observation that is not confrontational but still… outraged. Yeah- passive aggressive comedic outrage? “I gotta say. I was MID TRANSACTION. I clearly have ONE item in my cart. You guys took my spot and you have a million things. What the hell is going on here?” There was no recognition from the woman or the cashier. Or my imaginary audience. A manager popped up out of nowhere, apologized and opened a till.

“Thank you,” I said. “I was like ‘am I in the Twilight Zone?'”

Now I had just announced that I had one item in my cart- the clear plastic storage container. (Not an opaque one potentially filled with clothes.) But there was also the knick knack. THAT was POOH’S BUTT. Here is a picture of the butt in question:

I said, “This knick knack doesn’t have a price tag and I know why. It’s because it’s from a set of bookends and I already bought the other end from you.” The manager said “Hmm… how much was the other end?” “7.99” “Hmm… How bout 4.99?” I explained when I bought the other end, the price tag said “1 of 2.” Meaning I was supposed to get both ends for 7.99. But I couldn’t find the butt among the chaos that day, and figuring that the Christopher Robin end alone was worth $7.99, I had purchased it. Therefore I was owed a butt. The manager looked pained. “Well,” he said, “Normally I’d ask for a receipt etc etc… (Here I’m guessing he thought about the Twilight Zone) but I’ll let you have it today.”

Now here’s the thing. I didn’t get the Christopher Robin end from THAT thrift store. Same chain (Value Village) but different location. And it was months ago. So I was only telling the truth in a roundabout way. The point is the same. I had paid for the butt, deserved the butt and I GOT THE BUTT! All things considered it was good luck and worth the trouble to get on the manager’s good side.
(I’m also charmed by the fact that the store ONLY had the butt- I hadn’t screwed over the next person by stealing their butt. Had there been a domino effect running through all the stores and this was the end point? Had the universe delivered this butt to me through some sort of butt shuffle?) I got my endorphin rush from the victory. YAY.

When I left the store, the family was still far from done their transaction. They had the chance to say “sorry” as I walked by but they didn’t.

WalMart Kid

I’m embarrassed that I was at the Walmart, but that’s where I was. I was looking for a specific storage container only sold there.

I was walking around about 30-45 minutes because I couldn’t find the specific container I was looking for, and they were kind of spread out all over the store. Soon after I arrived, there was an announcement: “Code 51- Puma hoodie, curly hair, blue pants.” I thought: shoplifter or kid. As time passed they got more specific “Missing child, secure all doorways.” These announcements went on the entire time I was there and I kept an eye out.

I finally gave up on finding my containers and exited Walmart to the mall. I thought “I’m going to keep looking for that kid.” And then… I SAW HIM! About 3 years old running happily in the mall with his arms flailing. Then I realized he was running FROM someone… a security guard. I guess we all saw him at the same time. The guard scooped him up and turned back to the Walmart, where I could see the mother crying and desperately thankful. I had unknowingly walked right past her when I left and now I got to see the whole reunion scene play out. It was really something seeing such raw emotion- and of course the kid had no idea what he had just put her through.

The Grocery Store

On Friday they announced that people shouldn’t come back to work on Monday- stay at home to prevent virus spread. Things were getting serious. Wednesday was the day I went to Walmart- unfortunately I didn’t get groceries then. Way back 2 days earlier, no one was too worried. There had been many self serve cashes open with no one using them and food was fully stocked.

On Friday at around 1pm I thought “I’d better get groceries before everyone gets off work.” I usually get takeout so I don’t have much of a pantry to speak of at all. I needed emergency staples. Just in case.

I have 2 grocery stores near my house. The one I went to was locked, and people were lined up outside the door- there was staggered entry. At the time, I thought “wrong choice,” but later I learned it was very much the RIGHT choice. At the OTHER grocery store, at the exact same time, there was a fight in the chip aisle and someone pulled out a gun!

Anyways, I got in the store, and it was still fairly well stocked. The fresh produce section was totally full. But people who think like me had already been through. The frozen veggies were gone, as well as most the pasta and rice. I got a big bag of rice, soups, and some frozen edamame because it’s at least green. But when I looked around at what other people were getting, I was very confused. Little baskets with perishables… an artisanal bun… a bottle of soy sauce… garnishes. Everyone I looked at had just a few things like it was a normal day. I guess they were COOL cityfolk?

I get that you don’t want to panic and are treating things like normal… but why wait outside a locked store for 45 min and in line for 45 min to buy 2 things? Are you putting on a show? I’m still confused by that.

Shoppers Drug Mart

I went to shoppers to get a prescription AFTER the declaration of social distancing, and it was full of people and I was the only one wearing a mask. Grrr. Everyone is soooooo cooooool. I’m also cool- I don’t think much will happen if I get symptoms. I, like, so don’t care. It’s the spread. It’s not rocket science. Stay at home for the sake of the vulnerable.

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