|Looking upriver as the tide goes out.|
I’m even able to tune out the blaring music that bounces off the high, steel ceiling, and ignore the other shoppers. I’m not there to socialize, I’m there to select my groceries (who you calling an introvert?!).
My first foray into the grocery store since Nova Scotia went into a State of Emergency happened earlier this week, and it taught me something about myself.
I already know that “panic” is my default setting, but there’s a big difference between panicking the first time you find a tick on your leg and panicking because THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE IN THE STORE during a viral pandemic.
When I pushed my cart through the automatic doors and entered the store, my plan was simple: Get in and get out as quickly as possible. Pick up all the items on my large list as quickly as possible. Stay away from people as much as possible.
Unfortunately, I had to go in the afternoon rather than the morning so there were more people shopping than I was comfortable with.
All of a sudden, I realized how little space there is for “physical distancing” inside a grocery store. The aisles aren’t wide enough for two people to keep two meters apart if we are passing. I tried to hold back, to let others get their stuff and get going,
but right away, in produce,
there was a woman who was TAKING HER TIME.
Just grab the peppers, lady, and keep moving.
I couldn’t stay still. I had to power by – holding my breath, averting my eyes.
Two shoppers wore masks. At least four employees were shopping for phoned-in orders.
I turned around and left an aisle because I couldn’t go past a woman gazing at the cans of soup. The coolers holding the milk products were the busiest spot.
I kept holding my breath – to keep my moist breath in, to keep others’ droplets out. Not sure if it helps, but holding my breath also served to mute the instinct to chit-chat.
There was an older woman, with a small cart, walking around slowly and I now regret I didn’t speak to her. I sort of smiled, but I wish I’d spoken with her. She seemed lonely.
Reflecting on my experience now, I realize my panic default snapped into high gear when I went into the store and I had tunnel vision. I was in “speed” mode and not really considering my distancing. I’ve NEVER shopped so quickly or with such intensity.
What brought this home to me, in reflecting, was that I didn’t read the signs at the checkout that explained where to stand and when to unload your cart – and I read everything. I just couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t read the words, I couldn’t stop moving.
GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT
That’s all I wanted to do. Get my groceries and get out of there.
It was the barrier on the way out that almost undid me. For someone raised white and middle class in central Canada, who has never travelled or worked in a third world country, who does not have a family history with segregation or assimilation or genocide in it, seeing the barricade of dry goods separating the out from the in suddenly made me want to cry.
And it was only guiding my direction, it wasn’t truly a wall.
But it marked that we are no longer in the Time Before. It reminded me that everything has changed, and will continue to change, and will remain changed when we reach the Time After.
When I returned home, and washed my hands, and unloaded the groceries, and washed my hands, and put away some of the groceries, and washed my hands, I put on my outside gear and took the dog for a walk by the river.
And I stopped holding my breath.
The wind cleansed my mind of anxiety.
The sunshine disinfected my spirit.
The moving water washed away the heartache.
In times of human catastrophe, we find our peace in nature.
With air and fire and earth and water.
With wind and sun and trees and river.
As long as we can step outside and breathe, feel the sun on our face, smell the dirt and grass, we are never truly isolated.
|Looking downriver as the ice flows towards Port Howe.|
NOTE added an hour later: Just saw on Facebook that a local grocery store has "flow markings" now - arrows pointing in one direction in each aisle. Hallelujah! While no one else will race around the grocery store like I do, at least we'll all be going in the same direction -- and I can just bump them along with my cart.