I still shop at my local grocery store, even though there are more rotisserie chickens than avocados, and small stickers on every mediocre apple. Ever since my store was purchased by a larger chain, it has felt more Disney than Indie, but I’ve known the butcher for twenty years, and one of the baggers for ten.
Several years ago, I happened to see one of the checkers on his last day. He and his wife were moving to Las Vegas. I told him that for about a year, when I had a newborn and a toddler, I came to this grocery store every day so I would have a reason to put on pants. I told him I appreciated the way he always told me funny stories about his customers. He said he would find me on Facebook, and he did, which is how I learned of his passion for guns.
For the next few weeks, to slow the spread of the coronavirus, San Francisco residents are supposed to shelter-in-place except for essential errands like food, drugs, and outdoor exercise. Older people have been instructed to stay inside. Last night, my mother requested canned soup (“nothing fancy”), eggs, and white wine, so I drove down the hill to my store. I was expecting a crowd, but it turned out, there were more rule-followers in this city than I would have guessed. The few shoppers included a young woman wearing a mask and a black beanie, an old man with a scarf wrapped around his face, and a woman in yoga pants with a turtleneck sweater pulled over her mouth. It looked like everyone just had nose jobs, or someone had just farted.
They were out of canned soup so I got three packets of gourmet ramen which my mother would probably hate. There was still plenty of wine left, and a million cartons of eggs for some reason. I stood in line behind a woman buying miso, aspirin, and wilted celery. This particular combination made me sad and I turned my head. The man behind me was staring at my basket of ramen and three bottles of pinot grigio.
When the checker greeted me, I noticed he was rewrapping his hand in a cloth towel. I asked him what happened, and he said he cut it earlier but hadn’t gotten around to getting a bandage. “It’s not that bad,” he said. Miso and I looked at each other. I wasn’t sure where open wounds ranked among contamination concerns. In my purse I had two Band-Aids that I handed over to him. “I owe you a coffee,” he said. I shrugged my shoulders and said I’m a mom. He scanned my items, one by one, with his bandaged hand.
I arrived at my mother’s house and promptly washed my hands. I didn’t sing Happy Birthday. Mom had canceled all of her social engagements and had a stack of books on her coffee table. We sat across the room from each other and drank wine. She wore a pretty purple lipstick and black jeans. She was trying to change the subject to the presidential election, but we kept coming back to the fact that she shouldn’t leave her house. “Except to walk the dog,” she said. “Thank god for the dog.” We looked down at the elderly deaf dog with big brown eyes and a bark that sounded like a sea lion.
Mom’s right. We don’t need fancy soup.