This Virus

The Line at Starbucks. Notice the pedestrians.

In the good old days, before the Covid-19 virus took over our lives, I would not give a second thought to jumping in my truck to go to whatever store that the thought had crossed my mind. Nowadays, things are just a little different. Apart from the fact that not all stores are open due to their inability to enforce social distancing because of the nature of what they sell or offer, hairdressers and massage parlors come to mind, the State Governors deemed that the only businesses that should be open are those with absolute necessities like food and hardware stores and several others. In my part of the country, that is HEB for food and Home Depot or Lowe’s for hardware. There are many others but those are the biggest and the ones that I frequent occasionally.

Lowe’s at Brodie Lane, Texas

Both of these stores have gone to extreme lengths to enforce social distancing by limiting the number of people allowed in the store at a time, placing markings on the floor at the checkout registrar and providing hand wipes and sanitizing the food carts. They have tried to make it safer for their employees by installing perspex screens between the check out and the customer and have a permanent cleaning staff who walk around all day doing nothing but wiping things down. Even so, I am very grateful that they are willing to put their lives on the line to keep the stores open. They may have other motives and I am sure they do and probably do not consider themselves to be heroes but to me and many others, they are. I realize that they are not driven out of a sense of fulfillment but something more practical like putting bread on their own table but it could come at a cost.

The reason I am on this diatribe and reverting back to my opening sentence is to understand my reluctance to go out to any of these stores. I used to visit HEB 2-3 times a week even if I only wanted a couple of items. Same with Home Depot and Lowe’s. Jump in the truck, take a quick drive to the nearest store, buy what I wanted and drive home or many times in my case, take a longer drive with a Starbucks latte to listen to an Audiobook on the way home.

Home Depot at Brodie Lane, Texas

I have one pond that has an algae problem meaning that the water is green and it needs treating, which is not a big job. It does require buying and then applying Algae Control to the water and as I happened to be nearly out of the stuff, I thought to myself, lets go to Home Depot or Lowes as both of those stores carry what I needed. So I jumped into my truck and made the short drive of around 5 miles to the one in town pulling into the Home Depot parking lot only to discover that it was pretty full and there were a lot of parked vehicles meaning that there were also a lot of people in the store. Wasting no time, I drove to the closest Lowe’s which was only half a mile down the road (these two stores are in competition with one another) only to discover that their parking lot was also full up with vehicles. I know it was a Saturday and both stores had just received the shipments of summer plants but even so, I was a little surprised how busy it was. It had not been like this a week earlier when I had reason to stop by.

Then I remembered that our Governor, Greg Abbott had just lifted some of the regulations that had been in place and some of the other stores were allowed to open as long as they practised social distancing which also included the aforementioned hairdressers, although I have yet to figure out how to cut hair and still maintain a 6 foot distance. All of those people that have been cooped up in their houses and apartments must be making the most of it and were out and about. I thought about it for a bit and decided that I had enough Algaecide at home to get started and that I would wait for midweek to make the trip to the stores if I needed more. The truth is, I did not want to go into a store where there were a lot of people, some of whom would not be very careful of how they carried themselves and would forget the rules.

Which brings me to the point of this discussion. It’s one thing having to shop for food and the other necessities of life but to return to semi normal when this pandemic is still very much alive does tend to beg the question. I know that for myself, I am very reluctant to get out into any sort of crowds or to willingly put myself in the line of fire even if there is only the remotest chance of catching the virus. I realize that I am fortunate that I am retired with sufficient income to see me through as opposed to being a working man or woman and having to put bread on the table to feed a family, which does give me choices. I choose to stay home and only venture out for necessities, in my case food, Starbucks and algaecide.

Starbucks at Escarpment, Slaughter Lane, Texas

By the way, There are several Starbucks that I visit in my immediate area. There are several next to different HEB’s but of late, it has been very difficult knowing what sort of hours they keep. Just lately, a couple are closing at 2:00 pm while others vary depending on the amount of traffic. The one at Circle C and Escarpment, which is very conveniently next to my favorite HEB, is keeping weird hours and I never know what time they will close. The few times in the past week or so that I have been there when they are open, there has been a line of 20 or so vehicles plus usually a couple of people on bikes and even a couple of walk ups. It is a little frustrating as they are not keeping regular hours and it’s a kinda hit and miss game. Probably a good thing when you get right down to it as I drink too many Lattes and spend way too much money per month/year on the stuff. I consider coffee as my only real vice as I gave up drinking more than 12 years ago coupled with the fact that the pretty girls no longer notice me and I have given up trying to attract them. To them, I am just another old man on the road of life fast reaching the end of the journey.

HEB at Escarpment, Slaughter Lane, Texas

I wonder how long it will take to return to any form of normality. Here in Texas, there have already been protests at the State Capitol as a couple of hundred noisy demonstrators complete with their armor and guns, have blockaded the road. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and beliefs but to me, it does seem a little premature to end the lockdown. It could easily start a second wave of infected people which could be far worse than the first time around and we would have to do this all over again for an even longer time period.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out. Me, I am only going to the stores when I have no other choice.

Given the choice, I would like to die in my bed, naturally…

Written 5/2/2020