Friday, March 27, 2020

Flattening the Curve, Day 9

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Well friends and family, except for sitting in my backyard, I haven't gotten out and about in several days due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and a mandatory leave from my government job. My, how things have changed...

Yesterday it was clear that a grocery run was needed so Jim and I went to two different grocery stores.

Our first stop was Trader Joe's. Quite a different experience from Jim's trip last week, which was day 4 of my leave from work. On day 4, which was a Saturday at around 6 p.m., there was no line and not very many people were in the store. But yesterday, outside the store, there were 6 foot markers (basically orange pieces of tape with '6 ft.' written on each) placed on the sidewalk. There were shoppers lined up according to this social distancing rule that is now in place, I think, everywhere.

As Jim and I approached the front of the line and could get a clearer look at the scene, the hand drawn sandwich board (above) reminded us to keep the six foot distance rule as we shopped. There were two employees stationed at the door allowing shoppers to enter only as other shoppers were exiting.

When it was our turn to go into the store everyone was, indeed, mindful of the social distancing rule and the store was well stocked (except no toilet paper - what up with that people?), organized and there was a calming energy. If you've ever been in a Trader Joe's at a peak shopping time in the past, no doubt you've experienced a packed store, with loud music blasting and a lot of positive high energy. At least that is how it was here in Eugene, Oregon.

As Jim and I approached the check-out counter, the clerk, wearing safety gloves, wiped down his station and the touch pad of the electronic card reader, and then greeted us with a smile. Of course the conversation between us and the clerk was about the current 'pandemic predicament' we are all now living in. Jim and I packed our groceries into the reusable bags we brought from home and the clerk was gracious and helpful and we thanked him for being there.

The second store we went to was The Kiva, a local downtown natural foods grocery that has been in business for 49 years. It was a very different experience from that of Trader Joe's.

The first thing Jim and I noticed was how empty the parking lot was. As we approached the entrance, we noticed one of the doors was propped open - very unusual for Kiva. We stood outside and asked the clerk standing at the check-out if they were open. Yes, they are open. Of course we noticed that all the employees were wearing safety masks and gloves.

There were not many customers in the store at all, which is another very unusual thing for Kiva. The Kiva is not only a hub of activity with shoppers in and out all day, everyday, but it is also considered a connecting point for many people in the area who want to put their money where their mouth is in regards to supporting a local, socially conscious business. So to experience The Kiva without all the hubbub was concerning.

The store was calm and well stocked and Jim and I proceeded with our shopping. When we got to the check-out, we were not allowed to pack our groceries in our reusable grocery bag. The procedure is, as we learned it at that moment - the clerk scanned our items and placed them back into our shopping basket. After we paid we were then instructed to take our basket of items outside to a table, pack our reusable bag at the table and then leave the shopping basket there, where it will then be sanitized by the store clerk and brought back into the store.

Welcome to the new somber reality of grocery shopping in the middle of a global pandemic. Even though it was stressful it was also good to know that my community is taking this situation very seriously.

And in the midst of this crisis, there are glimmers of hope, like when Andrew David recently sang Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah on the near empty streets of Chicago.

Take care friends and family. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones.


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