Skip to main content

The Supermarket

Berkley, Michigan

Mostly we’re waiting. Mostly we're puttering, trying to achieve some semblance of normal life, despite this insistent background hum of anxiety. So we wait, and we try to figure out what to expect. None of the answers fill us with confidence.
Peggy and I are privileged—if that’s the right word—to be able to live at maybe 80 percent of our pre-virus lives. At least for now. I am acutely aware that this is not true for most people, is completely the opposite for many, and is catastrophic for more than we can bear to think about. I think about people already ill with other things. People either losing or terrified of losing their incomes. People on the front lines of our deplorably meagre medical defenses, who risk their lives with every breath they take in their work environment. 
So yes, I am keenly aware of the privilege I enjoy—if that’s the right word. The fact that Peggy and I are in the high-risk category somehow seems a cop-out, but it keeps me here in the house. I might as well write. It's what I do, after all, but it doesn't feel especially useful.
So far, Berkley isn’t showing overt signs of the spread. Just caution. And edginess. Everybody knows what’s coming, but nobody knows when. We don’t yet know of anyone who is infected. But the viral arithmetic is almost beyond comprehension.
Or maybe the edginess is just me. Hard to tell lately. Yesterday morning I had an unusual few hours. I was up before 5 a.m. (not unusual, alas). I was checking the news and working up some rage at Republicans, to whom I assign responsibility for our idiotic level of preparedness—for the 40+ years they have spent undermining science, expertise, and simple competence, all with a transparently malignant purpose unheard of in an industrialized democracy (if that’s what we still are). More on this another time. 
But as this rage was percolating, it morphed into an obsessive trepidation about the commitment I had made to make an 8 a.m. trip to the supermarket (the new Woodward Corner) for one last grab at some groceries to put away or freeze.
To be sure, Peggy was not happy about this idea, and while I would have let her forbid me, we basically agreed that it was still early in the crisis and there were some gaps in our supplies that it would be really nice to fill. Was this reasoning sound or suicidal? Remains to be seen. But the prospect of performing this ordinarily effortless task was now more daunting than I expected.
Which is when an unfamiliar feeling consumed me, which I can now say for sure was terror. It was intense, it was more than just a background hum, and it almost brought me to tears. (It did bring Rachel Maddow to tears when she closed Friday’s show eulogizing the NBC cameraman who died of the virus).
The hardest part is not knowing if you’re doing everything—or even anything—right. What if you screw up? What if something bad happens? What if you do everything right and something bad happens anyway? What if you do everything wrong and nothing bad happens? What if bad has already happened and you won’t know for a week?
All we know for sure is that we’ll never know how we got it. Or from whom. Or how long ago. Or what we did or didn’t do to catch it.
With this in mind, and with terror coursing through my veins (notice how every little thing feels like it's coursing through our veins these days, sort of like, say, a virus), I set out for the supermarket.
It’s not that it was crowded by normal standards. But there were definitely more people than I cared to worry about keeping six feet from. Still, I gloved up, Lysol-wiped the cart handle, and headed inside.
It was hard. It did little to reduce my stress level. Everyone was vigilant, most were respectful and polite, some were a little too cavalier about the six feet thing. I wasn’t the only one moving from aisle to aisle avoiding anyone coming in the other direction. I didn’t want to squeeze by them, but a few times there was no choice. Violations of the six feet rule were inevitable, but I never got closer than a meter (the W.H.O.’s guideline), and I always faced away from the person. Was this smart? Was it effective? Who knows? I’ll find out—or not find out—in a week or two. But in terms of its strategic goals, the mission was successful. Our well-stocked house is now more well-stocked. Privilege again.

Comments

  1. Thoughtful piece and oh so true . . . I'll look forward to your next, hopefully with less terror cause that's a hard way to live (but you know that).

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Because Things Just Aren’t Scary Enough

There’s been considerable buzz in the last week around an op-ed column in the Washington Post that purports to scare the shit out of you, but is a must-read nonetheless. It was written by Robert Kagan, an establishment policy expert, long associated with Republican administrations. Now divorced from the GOP, he has become an outspoken never-Trumper. The piece is both a dead-on analysis of our current moment in history and a dire warning for the very near future. While I don’t subscribe to all its assumptions, I find its basic premise disturbingly plausible, maybe even likely. The essay envisions a dystopian nightmare enveloping the 2024 presidential election, the culmination of a constitutional crisis that is clearly already in motion. As things stand now, Kagan says, the groundwork is almost in place for Trump to steal that election. Kagan insists that Trump will indeed be the candidate, that he will challenge the results if they don’t fall his way, and that this time he has

I’d Rather Not Be So Partisan

Since moving to my modest suburb outside Detroit, my interest in local politics has been marginal. I personally don’t have much skin in the game — no school-age children, no business interests to advocate for, no history in the community. I’m generally content to pay my taxes and enjoy the benefits of living in a relatively well-run town. Even so, as a citizen I feel responsible for knowing something about the people who run things. So while I don’t follow the workings of the city council, I do pay attention when its members are running for office, which happens in off-year elections every two years.  So this is the year, and, as expected, the front yards are abloom with lawn signs. I get to vote for three of the six candidates. The unspoken rule is that the election process is kept strictly non-partisan, so these candidates do not publicly divulge their party affiliations. Which almost makes sense. After all, the upkeep of our roads, sewers, power lines and other infrastructur

Inflation and the Supply Chain are Joined at the Hip

Back in the early eighties, inflation was on everyone’s mind. Prices on everything had been going up since the Vietnam War, and the country was caught in a vicious spiral of people and businesses getting rocked by higher prices, expecting them to go even higher, and raising prices in anticipation of them going still higher. Rinse and repeat. The expectation of higher prices drove prices higher. It was an eye-opening experience. The candy bar that cost a dime when I was a kid was suddenly 75 cents. My first mortgage carried a 12-percent interest rate adjustable every year, which meant it could’ve escalated to 18 percent in six years, a terrifying prospect. Luckily, interest rates peaked before that could happen, and the so-called Great Inflation of the seventies and eighties finally subsided. But ever since that time, big business has been obsessively paranoid about anything that smacks of inflation. Inflation cuts into their precious purchasing power. It degrades the value of t