It’s Tuesday, right? Two days ago, Sunday felt like Monday because I was working, and because I worked the next day as well it felt like Tuesday, even though it was Monday. So this week I’ve had two Mondays, and I’m now on my second Tuesday. That’s four days already, so shouldn’t tomorrow be Friday?
I’ve decided to continue working at the grocery store, but only two days starting next week. I realized over the weekend that I actually enjoy the work — I’m alone with my thoughts a good deal, and don’t mind customer questions (it’s actually kinda fun to show people where to find the yeast) — and buying food for my family on a regular basis is a convenience that shouldn’t be easily surrendered. It also gets me out of the house while performing an important service during this unusual time.
Flour returned to our shelves the past week, although canned soup remains scarce. I always chuckle when customers place toilet paper and sanitizing wipes on their orders, but I guess you gotta live in hope. There’s rumors of a coming meat shortage, and I’m seeing a surge in requests for beef, chicken, and pork, although none as yet for seafood. On Sunday, I saw a large number of appealing burgers available while shopping at 10 AM; by the time I shopped for my family at the end of my shift at 3, the only burgers available were plant-based imitation meat (“it’s not bad, it just doesn’t taste like anything,” according to my son).
Need to correct a statement I made in last week’s post. Our state’s stay at home order is not being lifted this coming Friday; citizens are being urged to stay at home unless they have a compelling reason to go out. But many health care professions, such as dentistry, will be allowed to reopen on May 1. Manufacturing can resume the following Monday, and retail and service industries on May 12. Employees of all businesses will be required to wear masks and maintain six feet of separation between other employees.
It will be interesting to see how these guidelines will affect the store where I work. The aisles were designed in a pre-COVID world, and it’s impossible to pass anyone stopping to browse without coming within six feet. One-way directional signs have been posted on all aisles, but as with wearing of face masks compliance is voluntary and routinely ignored. In issuing the re-opening guidelines yesterday, our governor stated that businesses need to enforce mask wearing and six-feet separation not only to employees but to customers as well. Will our store deny entry to people who don’t have their mouth and nose covered? Will I be required to turn customers around when they go down the wrong way? If my store doesn’t take these actions, what will the state due — fine us? force us to close? Two months ago, such thoughts were confined to the realm of dystopian fiction. Now it’s just Tuesday, or whatever it is we’re calling today.
I had to back my car out of the garage into the driveway today, and in the 30 seconds the radio was on I heard the opening verses of “Right Here, Right Now,” a 1991 song by a one-hit wonder with the ludicrously pretentious name of Jesus Jones. Written during the collapse of the Soviet empire in the late 1980s, the lyrics are downright giddy (“there is no other place I’d rather be”) and directly reference the neoconservative fantasy that the world was about to “wake up from history.”
I thought the song was pretentious when it first came out, it seemed even more ridiculous after 9/11, and on hearing it today laughed at its naivete. We rose from history only to step into a waking nightmare.
Yet as I’ve said in previous posts, my family and I are doing just fine. The one part of my pre-COVID life that’s noticeably missing is regular exercise. With no gym, fencing club, or Pilates studio available, I can only get on a stationary bike or run around the block; the former gets tedious, and the latter is weather-dependent and, to be honest, unappealing.
I’m curious to see how fencing will change when athletic activities resume. Our coach is considering limiting the club to no more than a half-dozen or so fencers at any time to better maintain six feet of separation. Competitors typically stay more than six feet apart during most of a bout, but you simply cannot complete an attack with a three-foot weapon from six feet away. The metal masks used in competition provide somewhat of a barrier, but the steel mesh is too porous to prevent possible contamination, and wearing a nose and mouth covering underneath is impractical; fencers need air.
One tradition enforced in the sport’s rules will most certainly not survive. Per section t.122 of the current United States Fencing Association Rulebook, at the conclusion of a bout both competitors are required to “perform a fencer’s salute and shake hands with their opponent;” the referee is allowed to disqualify a fencer for an entire tournament for non-compliance. Saluting can be done at a distance and will remain in place, but the shaking of hands will have to go.
I don’t know how long I’ll keep writing these weekly updates. Until I no longer feel compelled to publish these thoughts, and with the uncertainty of the world right now I have no idea what conditions need to be met to quiet than compulsion.