One morning I stand in line, appropriately distanced from the woman in front of me and hoping the person behind me is extending the same courtesy, waiting to get into the garden center. I arrived a few minutes past opening time and there was already a lineup. Plants and flowers are means to self-care, I tell myself. It will be worth the wait. And so I stand in line the wind, wishing I had worn something warmer, waiting for my turn to enter the guarded fortress that the garden center has become.
“You can enter door number two,” a young woman tells me when my turn comes.
“Thank you,” I say, grateful, in this upside down world, for the opportunity to go into the store and spend money.
I hunt down a cart and navigate aisles with tape arrows directing the day. Oh no. Not this again. I can never seem to figure out the arrows and get myself where I want to go.
What was once a springtime joy, turns into a chore. I end up grabbing ridiculously expensive pre-selected packets of petunias and a handful of other plants. Gone, a pleasant hour of browsing and planning and visualizing what beauty will bloom in my flowerpots in the summer. Gone, deliberation, mind-changing, and being filled by being among plants. I just want to get something and get out.
A few days later I’m queued again, at the grocery store this time, looking sideways at a couple of family units in the line up. One person per family, is the acceptable norm, for safety, yes, but it’s also a courtesy, so more people can enter the store in these days when capacity is restricted.
The line moves at a decent speed. I rub sanitizer on my hands before the woman guarding the carts and baskets let’s me take one.
“You look very nice today,” she tells me as I reach for a sanitized basket.
I’m startled, but grateful. She’s doing a job she never imagined doing and doing it well.
Later, after I’ve gathered my things, gone through the checkout, and am making my way through the parking lot toward my car, it hits me.
Maybe the reason I find it so hard to go shopping in Corona time is that we’re forced to treat one another as toxic. We keep our distance to stay safe. We sidestep to keep from invading the space of another. We’re dumbfounded at how quickly things have changed. Fragile.
In the morning I stand at the window, sip soy milky frothy coffee and look up at the pre-dawn sky. God, you have brought us in safety to this new day. Preserve us . . .