I picked up some fruits and vegetables at a grocery store last weekend. We don’t run errands lightly. This will hold us for quite a while. We’ve found a small-town store where they have everything we need without lineups or stress. I was in and out in a few minutes and have become an Olympian in the Don’t Touch Your Face competition.
As I was loading my items onto the belt, an old man approached my lane. We exchanged distant smiles. I said, “If you have a question, you can go ahead!” He asked my cashier where they kept the Lysol Wipes. The young woman and I traded knowing glances. “Oh, I think we’re still sold out”, she said. The man was taken aback. He had obviously just thought of getting some, so how could they be gone? “Show me where they are”, he said. “I want to see for myself.”
They were only gone a minute or two. He stood at a respectful distance and said, “I can’t believe it. Not a-one in the whole store”.
“You’ll have a hard time finding them anywhere”, I said. “They’re sold out all over.” I know this because I’ve tried to track some down for my Mom. Even on Amazon, they have only a few and they’re either from a vaguely shady unfamiliar brand or ridiculously priced.
“And if you do find some”, said the cashier, “the cost will be jacked way up”.
The man was stunned. He could not process this information. He seemed like a nice guy and I felt bad for him. Someone’s sweet Grandpa was rendered immobile for the moment. With a shake of his head, he finally left.
This little encounter made me sadder than you might imagine. We all have expectations, even if it’s about something like Lysol Wipes being in stock. I think the people we see ignoring the new normal are having trouble accepting that their expectations can’t be met. We expect to have freedom of movement. We expect to see people in person. Letting go of those expectations comes easier to some than others. Did you know that the Canadian government has no responsibility to bring us home if we’re stranded in another country? It’s true. But people expect it.
My Mom did find a container of wipes that got overlooked in a grocery store because it had migrated away from its usual place. Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN says the virus is easily killed, and regular cleaners will eliminate it on surfaces. Also, it’s unlikely that it will ride in on groceries but it can happen, so Dr. Gupta wipes down all of his food – cans, boxes, the works – before it’s put away.
50% of people who have COVID-19 don’t have any symptoms but can still spread it to someone who might not survive it. My former radio colleague Roy Green wrote an eloquent post about being one of the ones who are most vulnerable to the virus. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to who lives and who dies once they get it. It’s only smart to reduce the risks.
Some people keep pressuring the government to tell us when the pandemic will be over. When can life get back to normal? They can’t accept that these are unanswerable questions right now. Uncertainty scares them. It scares us all. But we have to be realistic. No one has a crystal ball that works, no matter what they claim.
You’re doing the right thing. You know the worst-case scenarios. I’ve become a fan of the thought of shaming people and dressing them down when they don’t take this crisis seriously. Not on social media. But, say your brother-in-law still has his buddies over for weekly beers in the garage. Let him have it. It’s better than having them thrown in a cell because it may come to that. It already has, in some parts of the US.
My friend Charlene is probably circulating on a social media video, yelling at a woman to “Back the BLEEP off!” when she got too close in a store. Charlene has always been a superhero to me. Move over Superman, little kids should dress up as Charlene for Halloween. If we have Halloween. In summary, now is not the time to be overly polite to those who are putting us all at risk. Those whose behavior you correct may even thank you for it later. But I wouldn’t expect it.