I geared-up to leave the house; putting on my face mask and my green latex gloves—the main purpose of the gloves being to remind me not to touch my face. I’d been out for a few groceries earlier, and now I was picking up my daughter to do a bigger grocery run. I was looking forward to spending time with her, even though all our talking would be through masks, and there’d be no hello and goodbye hugs; these are strange times, and I’m happy for what I can get.
I made the short drive to Alison’s house, she hopped into the car and I began to tell her about my morning. . . .
I had gone to Aldi. They were being wonderfully careful about safety, only letting 60 customers into the store at one time. The weather was nice, so I didn’t mind waiting 15 minutes to get inside. The security guard, who usually looks so bored and disengaged, now seemed to feel a sense of importance, as if his job had suddenly become meaningful. It made me happy to see him standing up straighter and moving about with purpose as he counted the people going in and out, and answered questions of customers confused by the new procedures. Another employee, who I usually see stocking shelves, was cleaning carts—and not just the handles—no, he was cleaning all the areas where a customer might put their hands, and making sure no one took a cart that hadn’t been cleaned.
When I got my turn to enter the store, I was happily surprised at how quiet and uncrowded it was inside. People were being gracious, giving one another plenty of space. I was floating along, feeling protected and peaceful. I collected the last few things on my list, and got in line to check out. As I finished unloading my items onto the belt and stepped closer to the cashier, I noticed she was placing my groceries in the cart the last customer had been using. (Even in the best of times, this causes a problem for me. After I’ve wiped the handles of the cart I’m going to use, and put my quarter in the slot to release the cart from the rest of the row, why would I want to have someone else’s germy cart and quarter? But now, with COVID-19 microbes lurking everywhere, this was unthinkable!)
“Don’t I get to keep my same cart?” I asked, trying to keep my voice sounding civil, “It’s already been sanitized.”
She lifted a limp disinfectant wipe that apparently she was using over and over, and said, “I cleaned it.”
I was instantly so angry, that I actually stamped my foot! Like a bratty, little kid!
I glanced around, relieved to see that no one had noticed my mini-tantrum. I thanked the cashier (through my mask and my gritted teeth!) and went on my way.
Back in the car, as I finished telling my tale of woe, Alison said,
“So, that was your sandwich, huh?”
What she said sounded vaguely familiar. “Refresh my memory,” I said.
She reminded me of something that had happened in her neighborhood a few days after the shelter-in-place order had first taken effect.
She was standing on her front stoop when she heard a noise—like something being thrown onto the pavement. As she scanned the sidewalk, she saw a take-out box in front of a neighbor’s house; it had apparently popped open on impact and inside it was a large deli sandwich.
Her roommate had also heard the noise, and stepped outside to see what was going on. The two of them began taking guesses as to why the box with the sandwich had been hurled outside.
As if to answer their questions, the neighbor stepped onto his stoop and loudly—and very angrily—yelled,
“How [bleeping] hard is it to get a [bleeping] sandwich order right?! [Bleeeeeeep]!”
Alison and her friend stepped back inside and had a good laugh over this scene. It was especially funny because this neighbor is usually very quiet and mild-mannered; he never causes any trouble. But apparently, dealing with the immeasurable stresses of a pandemic was all he could handle, and not getting the sandwich he wanted had put him over the edge . . . the same way a germy quarter and second-hand shopping cart had put me over mine.
(So yes, Alison—that was my sandwich!)
We humans like having control over our lives—or at least believing we have control over them. When we are forced to surrender control over the big things, as we have been lately, we take comfort in knowing we still have control over the little things . . . like sandwiches.
And it’s understandable that if the little things slip out of our control, it might cause us to overreact. Perhaps blowing off steam over things that don’t matter much might actually help save emotional space to deal with the things that do. . . .
And that sounds pretty healthy to me.
Photo by Christo Anestev via Pixabay
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