I don’t know that living through a pandemic has taught me a single thing other than the pretty obvious fact that whatever else is wrong in my world and the larger world is worse in the midst of a pandemic. That’s kind of a “duh, bunny-brain” epiphany.
Instacart is my friend. Even the not-so-great shoppers are my friends. I tip well on the basis that folks doing that job are probably not doing it as a first-choice career, not that it’s not perfectly good, useful work, which is more than I can say for…let’s just say “some people” and leave it at that. I have also been told that there are people who don’t tip. I will spare you my opinion of those schmucks. So I can’t say that I have acquired any wisdom, and I’m sure that my character has not improved. This is not, therefore, a post answering the questions Miriam asked. I have learned how to make 3 different kinds of masks, but I don’t think that counts. So here’s my Other Kind of Covid Story:
The only reason I go to the grocery store is that it’s also my pharmacy. I have relationships with the pharmacists. They ask about my family and commiserate with me about the ridiculous co-pay for my anti-depressant and the aches and pains associated with the aromatase inhibitor I take on the 10% chance that it’ll help me not get more breast cancer. And when I do go, I typically pick up a medium-sized pile of groceries—some from a list and some “oooh, I forgot we need that” items. I hate it. People wear flimsy masks, about half the folks seem clueless about how far 6 ft. is, in spite of helpful markings on the floor, and most folks ignore the one-direction-per aisle signs. So I usually come home hating humanity and sure that I have contracted Covid-19. Good thing I don’t need to pick up ‘scripts too often.
I will now just go in, pick up my prescriptions and leave. I’m done. In the course of my most recent trip, not only did I rip the same nail twice (happily not below the quick, but still…), I had my usual fights with the self-checkout machine (I know these are not good for humans who need jobs, but right now I prefer to avoid the cashiers, who can be a bit casual about the mask thing), and, having checked out and paid, I noticed that I had forgotten to get the envelope for one of my grand-daughters’ Valentine’s Day cards and had to park my cart next to the beautifully patient young human who was staffing the self-checkout area and go back across the store to get it. None of this made the trip more than annoying.
What did was the loudly unmasked woman who was probably drunk off her ass–and that on top of being kind of a jerk by nature—who picked up my nice English cucumber, waved it around, planted it in her crotch, and began to fake-masturbate it. Part of me wanted to beat her with the cucumber, but that would not have been fair to an innocent vegetable, and would (like any other form of confrontation) have resulted in her yelling in my double-masked face, up close and too personal. It also would have added considerably to the embarrassment of her (masked and civil) husband and son (brother and nephew…), which was palpable. Along with the twice-ripped nail, the fractious checkout machine, and the forgotten envelope, this was just too bloody much. How messed up do you have to be to do that sort of thing? Pretty seriously, I’m guessing, at a near-cellular level of assholicity. So I’m done with grocery shopping.
Oh, there is one wisdomish-thing. I was seriously torqued for a bit about getting the vaccine. Friends kept posting on FB that they’d gotten theirs, and I got frantic, even staying up one night to try for a timeslot at any of the 39 Walgreen’s stores in my county as if I were trying to buy opening-day tix for the latest Star Trek movie. Then I figured out that all my friends who had their shots had probably registered ahead of me because I was kind of paying attention to another situation that needed lots of energy and focus. And a retired nurse friend who has been volunteering at the State’s big vaccine-events told me a bunch of stories about how they were still working on the 80+ crowd, and the State itself (probably in an attempt to save the sanity of the folks working the Department of Health phone lines) sent out a letter saying, in several ways, “the reason you haven’t gotten your vaccine yet is MATH,” which I found oddly calming. I am not, by nature, a patient person (though I can be passive—but that’s a different thing altogether, appearances to the contrary). But I have developed a sort of calm about when I’ll get my “Fauci Ouchie.” It’ll happen. I’m registered with 4 different agencies. One of them will come through, and, though my semester starts in two weeks, I am not teaching in person, so my exposure is not going to be any greater than it is right now. I guess I’ve learned some limited patience. And not to walk away from my grocery cart and leave cylindrical vegetables where serious eejits can get to them.
My husband-the-historian, who is a medievalist, started teaching a course a couple of years ago called “Plagues & Peoples” that covers more than the Black Death. His father lost a sister to meningitis and survived, but lost his hearing. His mother lost hers to scarlet fever. Or the other way ‘round—I’d check, but he’s snoring away contentedly in the next room. The point is that for most of human history there’s been a barrage of bugs trying to get us. Covid-19 is particularly nasty in many worrying ways (okay, terrifying), and it will mark a generation or three.
But I’m more afraid of the Cucumber Beast than of the disease itself. Humans are wonderful. Humans are gawdawful crudbuckets. Being patient as my state’s medical system turns itself inside out to get us vaccinated feels reasonable and sort of peaceful (or maybe Miriam’s fatalism is rubbing off on me after 40+ years of friendship) The Cucumber Beast (I ended up walking back to the entrance of the store where they keep the sanitizing wipes and wiping its plastic-sealed surface down), well, I’ve written her into my permanent narrative of the pandemic, which is as much revenge as I can safely and decently exact.