A Woman in a Mask and other stories

Today, I went shopping.

In the shop I saw a woman wearing an industrial mask and latex gloves. She wasn’t wearing goggles so all her precautions were wasted, as corona virus can spread via contact with the eyes.

I tried to get a picture with my phone but couldn’t get a clear shot, so I rang Julia instead. It was the most amazing thing I’ve seen since I saw the Great Rift Valley, and a lot more amusing. It was also a lot more interesting. The Great Rift Valley is fine as far as it goes (and it does go a long way) but, whilst breath-taking in its scale, it is just too big to be interesting. A woman in a paint-spraying mask with latex gloves is much more interesting because of the human scale.

If I survive the Great Pandemic this will be a story to bore people with for years to come. If I don’t survive I will at least have recorded it for posterity.

There has been a lot of panic-buying going on and many of the shelves in our local shop are empty. An interesting fact is that all the cheap stuff is going fast, and the expensive stuff is being left on the shelves. There were two sorts of baked beans left, for instance. On a six foot length of shelves only the “low salt, low sugar” and expensive Heinz beans were left. All the cheap own brand beans had gone.

The story was repeated across the whole shop. When the chips are down people prefer cheap to healthy. This has always been the case. Whatever people may say, they actually buy cheap. It used to be that 90% of people said they supported free range eggs, but the supermarket sales said that most of those people bought cheap eggs from caged birds. It took 30 years to change things round.

Someone showed me a picture today. It showed six bags of shopping and four cases of bottled water. That was the panic-buying his wife had done on her way back from work. In the evening she went out and bought a few extras. Well, you wouldn’t want to run out of beans and toilet rolls, would you?

Meanwhile, in Toronto, Number Two Son is waiting to be laid off. Occupancy of the hostel he works in has fallen to zero. That’s right, not one person staying there, all because of a microscopic bug.

Back to my shopping trip, and at the checkout a cleaner came to give it a wipe down.

“This,” she said, to the checkout operator, brandishing a bottle of sanitiser,”was the last one on the shelf.”

“Have you thought of putting it up for auction?” asked the woman in the queue behind me.




35 thoughts on “A Woman in a Mask and other stories

  1. Pingback: A Week I Wouldnโ€™t Want Again (Part 3) | quercuscommunity

  2. Laurie Graves

    I have heard that in my little town in central Maine, the shelves are pretty bare in the supermarket. In a rare case of thinking ahead—not something I’m usually known for—I stocked up several weeks ago when the shelves were full. Now we wait as we watch in horror how our grotesque administration handles the pandemic.

      1. Laurie Graves

        Sigh. I think they are finally beginning to understand this is one situation they can’t control with bullying and propaganda. The virus doesn’t listen to them at all, and their wealth does not protect them from this tiny foe.

  3. tootlepedal

    We went shopping in our local co-op yesterday and the shelves were reassuringly full. This may change however if we get a recorded case in our region. We have been lucky (or remote) so far. Sometimes it may be best to live where nothing happens.

      1. quercuscommunity

        My sister in law works for ASDA and has been working an unofficial rationing system to stop panic buyers taking everything. It might be something to do with staff.

      2. quercuscommunity

        I’ve been looking for paracetemol today – as a painkiller, not a cold cure. Tried five shops. not a single pill. Hoarders should be made to eat their stash – pills, pasta or toilet rolls – it would soon stop panic buying.

  4. jodierichelle

    It’s a wild time. My daughter works in Manhattan, New York and over a week ago she said the stores were insane. Now her whole company (I think) is working from home. I told her to come home to south Jersey (she can work from here just as easily,) but she wants to stay in her apartment for 2 weeks to be sure she isn’t sick before coming here.

  5. The Snail of Happiness

    I don’t go shopping if I can avoid it, so haven’t ventured out this week and can’t report on the state of the shelves in supermarkets here in west Wales. I do, however, have 5 litres of 91% isopropyl alcohol (I make my own cleaning products and happened to need to restock a few weeks ago)… I wonder what it’s worth now?!

    1. quercuscommunity

      My sister is cutting back to shopping weekly so people have less chance to cough on her – seems a sound plan. As for the isopropyl alcohol – you should probably consider extra security measures as it is going to continue rising in value for several weeks. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Anonymous

    I travel into London a lot, and it’s the same story over here. Someone cut the grass outside the local townhall, and my eyes started streaming – goddamned hayfever! But going on the train to travel into London, so many people were glaring behind their masks that I felt like a criminal. I know we need to be careful, but some people are really giving into hysteria. As long as you wash your hands and try not to touch your face, you shouldn’t catch it.

    1. quercuscommunity

      It’s been a quiet week in the shop, with a couple of people ringing to tell us they are going to stay away for a while. Most of our customers are over sixty, so they have a point. I’m hoping to catch it early and stop worrying.

  7. Helen

    Some of my students had plastic gloves on last week. If you touch your face, it doesnโ€™t matter if your hand is gloved or not, though, does it.

    A woman moved several seats down from me on the bus yesterday after I sneezed (Iโ€™ve got hayfever). She waved her asthma inhaler at me – sadly, that wonโ€™t take away the grass pollen, after such a mild, wet winter.

    1. quercuscommunity

      No, gloves aren’t much use, but I suppose they make people feel better.

      There’s a silver lining though, at least your hayfever is getting you an uncrowded seat on the bus. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. derrickjknight

    Your opening sequence reminds me of the smell of wartime gas masks. Now, masks, beans, and toilet rolls…..surely if there were no baked beans we would need no masks and less toilet paper.

  9. Sharon

    Eating all those beans they might need the toilet paper. I know this is madness, I have been putting in some extra can goods and pet food for the last few weeks, only a couple of things at a time and every time I have gone to add an extra pack of toilet paper there has been none to add. Had to get a prescription filled this morning and even the chemist had been hit by panic buying, poor girl at the counter had obviously had enough, at this rate retail staff will be needing stress leave after dealing with the zombie like rampaging hordes. I sincerely hope they are sharing their horded products with elderly relatives and neighbors but somehow I doubt it.
    A friend of my daughter, a young woman, who despite her age can only walk with the assistance of a walker and who has a serious immune system disease was repeatedly attacked and berated in the supermarket as she did her once a month normal shop. She was not stockpiling, she shops big once a month because her illness means she only manages to shop once a month. So for buying a few cans of tomatoes and other similar items she was repeatedly yelled at by able bodied individuals who did not face the challenges she does. As it was she had been contacted by the hospital and told to prepare to stay indoors indefinitely as actually catching the disease could prove fatal for her.
    Why are we losing our commonsense and empathy.

  10. Lavinia Ross

    I went down to the local grocer to get a few things, including ONE bottle of hydrogen peroxide. All the H2O2, and isopropyl alcohol had been cleaned from the shelves. Employees shrugged.

    1. quercuscommunity

      I really don’t understand what people are thinking of. One assistant in our local shop was doing his best to find some cheap honey for an elderly lady but only the expensive stuff remained.


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