Tag Archives: covid

COVID Kroger Karen


Okay, so the title only works when spoken aloud. The alliteration is lost in print.

Wife and I went to get vaccinated last week. I had some guilt about it, because we’ve actually had COVID already, and shouldn’t that make us immune at least for a while, and wouldn’t other people therefore need it more than us? But after being reassured that if you’re eligible, the thing to do is to get vaccinated no matter what, we went ahead and signed up.

And at a Kroger pharmacy, no less.

I do not love Kroger, but I shop there nine times out of ten because they generally have the best prices of grocery stores in my area. Plus I know their layout and I’m a creature of habit, blah blah blah… but I have never used their pharmacy, because I have seen how the store as a whole works, which is not inspiring for me when I consider who I want processing our pharmaceutical needs. (They are not super-efficient, is what I’m saying.)

Nonetheless, they were the closest and quickest appointment, so off to the Kenny Rogers we went.

And …. there was a line. Like a long line. But we were instructed to fill out paperwork and wait. Our wait would ultimately only be about 20 minutes, and we’d be out of there in under 45, so not bad on the whole. But that’s not what this story is about.

This story is about the COVID Kroger Karen, who enters the story just before we received our jabs.

We are sitting in the waiting area when she walks up, and delivers the line that I know is gonna lead to a good time: “Is there a manager I can speak to?”

And she says it, you know, louder than she needs to, because she’s getting ready to put on a show, and she wants her audience.

Well, the manager is giving vaccinations right now, so she’s going to have to wait, and to my surprise, she does. She begins doing what she’ll do for the next fifteen minutes, which is linger near the pharmacy, talk too loudly on her phone about how she has to wait, and sigh in exasperation as she fires off text messages and, presumably, disgruntled Facebook posts.

We get jabbed. We come out. CKK is still waiting, to my surprise, not making a scene. Our vaccinator wants us to linger for about 15 minutes to make sure we don’t have any adverse reaction. This is not a problem for me, because I want to see what CKK is gonna do, but nothing is happening, so I wander the aisles with my wife for a few.

By the time we’re back, she’s in full Karen meltdown. She’s standing at the counter, jabbing her finger angrily at the plastic divider between herself and the manager (who just a few minutes ago was pumping vaccine into my arm). Raising her voice to ludicrous levels.

“I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY YOU CAN’T JUST FILL IT.”

The pharmacy is backlogged on all orders right now because we are prioritizing the COVID vaccination effort.

“I JUST CAME FROM MY DOCTOR AND HE ASSURED ME IT WOULD BE READY.”

There is always a delay, and if you had called ahead, we could have told you there would be more of a delay.

“THIS IS JUST RIDICULOUS.”

Apologies.

“WELL HOW LONG IS IT GONNA TAKE.”

All orders are delayed by at least 24 hours right now because of the COVID vaccination effort, as I told you before.

And on and on, and around and around. There’s more. Lots more. The same basket of phrases gets passed back and forth between them like cards in a game of Go Fish.

In defense of CKK, I’d feel some kind of way if I were in her situation, too. Coming out to pick up a prescription only to find it’s not ready is one of the more frustrating things on the 1st-World-Problems Bingo Card, so on the one hand, I get it.

On the other hand? *Waves hands vaguely around* We are in a pandemic, after all, and y’know, if the vaccination effort is taking precedence over your monthly refill? I think we have to have some understanding, here.

But not CKK. Having made no headway with the manager (as she was never going to), she throws her hands up in exasperation. Whirls around, not to leave, but to continue her performance. I have been studiously staring at my phone while this has been going on, pretending to text so I can giggle under my breath as she loses her mind. She doesn’t catch me laughing, but I do make the mistake of glancing up —

And we lock eyes.

Oh, no.

I immediately avert right back to my phone, but it’s too late. She saw me. She walks toward me. Performatively announces, “I have never been treated like this. I just can’t believe it.”

I am studiously staring at a text message from my wife from over a week ago. This is a very important message, I hope my posture communicates. I haven’t been paying attention to you at all. In fact, I didn’t even hear you. In furtherance of fact, I don’t hear you now. All I know and all I see is this message from my wife. From over a week ago.

It’s not working. She comes right up to me. “Can you believe this? I can’t believe they’re doing this to me.”

She’s loud. She’s angry. She wants sympathy, and she has come to the driest of wells for a drink. I have no sympathy for this woman. She represents everything I hate in entitled, angry Older White People.

But because I’m a polite southern boy, I *almost* give it to her. I *almost* make the barest of head shakes, the tiniest of shoulder shrugs, I *almost* mutter knowingly, “whattayagonnado?” But I can’t make myself do it. I can’t offer her any comfort when she’s carrying on this way. I’m a parent. We do not negotiate with terrorists.

I steadfastly ignore her, hoping she’ll walk away, but she won’t. I instead offer her my favorite mantra when somebody is complaining: “Life is pain.”

Life Is Pain Highness GIFs | Tenor

I say it without looking up. Without smiling. I don’t mean it as a joke, or to mock her. It’s all I have for her in this moment.

She steps back. Squints at me. “What?”

Maybe she didn’t hear. Maybe she doesn’t understand. Maybe I’m just a colossal a-hole, more of an a-hole than she is in this moment. I don’t know. But it’s all I have for her. I offer it again, this time looking her in the eye and shrugging. “Life is pain.”

She scowls at me but doesn’t say anything. She stalks off to go be angry somewhere else, anywhere else, away from this absolutely unhelpful bald dude in his Star Wars hoodie quoting Princess Bride philosophy at her which she probably doesn’t even get, the rube.

It’s quiet. People go about their business.

I have discovered the cure for Karens, and the cure is ruthless existential candor.


What Will We Forget?


I wonder what’s going to stick with us after this is all said and done.

I mean, COVID is not going away. It spread too far, it’s in the ecosystem now, it’s mutating… it’s going to be with us basically forever. We’ll get better at mitigating and treating it, no doubt. And the vaccine will allow us to return to something like normal. And I imagine that “normal” will look pretty much like “normal” before COVID, with the exception that a lot more people will die during cold and flu season. That will be the new normal.

But it shouldn’t be, right? I mean, you look at a disaster like 9/11, and “normal” after that day was a pretty far cry from “normal” before. Society made some lasting changes as a result. Airports, to say the absolute least, have never been the same. (I remember, when I was in high school, on a boring summer day, driving to Atlanta Hartsfield airport and just playing around there all day. Roaming the terminals, getting lunch at the restaurants, riding the automated sidewalks and trams around. What a great day that was. Also? There is *so much* art and other neat stuff on display in airports, and the average person probably has occasion and access to see so little of it. One of the great invisible losses. Anyway…)

And, not to belabor a point that’s been made here and many other places, but the loss we’ve incurred from the pandemic absolutely dwarfs the horrific losses of 9/11. We’re over the half a million mark, and still going. That’s very quickly going to become 200 times as many people dead of COVID as died on 9/11.

200 times worse. There’s really no way to grapple with that.

So what will stick with us, and what will fade into “can you believe that happened” territory?

In particular, I fixate on masks. Probably because they’re the most visible sign that something is amiss in our world, and also, there was that whole thing where they became this ridiculous political symbol here in America. But we’ve learned, haven’t we, that masks are an easy way to mitigate the spread of not just COVID, but many airborne diseases, right? So will it become a normal thing to wear a mask in cold and flu season if you’re feeling symptoms?

Or how about taking a day off work? We so rarely take days off from work for the most part here, and people in my profession (teachers) are especially guilty. (In my own case, unless I’m well and truly impaired by whatever’s ailing me, I would rather go to work and suffer than deal with missing a day of school. Getting a sub, making lesson plans, dealing with discipline issues that come up because kids are awful to subs… it’s a whole hassle.) Will we relax a little bit about missing a day at the office in the interest of public health?

What will we learn, and what will we forget?


Eyes Without Faces


We’ve been back at school since August here in my part of Georgia, and say what you will about whether we should or should not be, and whether we’re doing enough to protect these kids and their families (to say nothing of teachers and their families) from COVID (in my not-so-humble opinion, we are not), but it’s been good to see the students again.

I mean, last year ended so abruptly and catastrophically that it was hardly an ending at all; it was like going to a movie theater, and having the film cut off just past the 1 hour mark — and then the manager comes in and says the film is totally borked, it can’t be fixed, and they’re just going to have to refund your money. And you’re like — what??

Anyway. I started out thinking about masks and who wears them in schools (they aren’t mandatory, here), and what that says about them… but I figure that’s too cliched, and it’s also not entirely a useful examination. I mean, kids are hardly reliable narrators of their own stories, let alone the stories that get told through them. A kid not wearing a mask isn’t indicative that the kid thinks COVID is a government conspiracy, for example, the way an adult not wearing one is. It could be that the kid just forgot to wear a mask. Or that they lost it. Or that they just got tired of wearing it and took it off. Or that (I had one kid tell me this was the case) their parents forbid them to wear it. Or any number of other permutations. So while it’s interesting to see which kids wear masks, it’s not particularly instructive.

No, I want to mention a very strange phenomenon in this era of mask-wearing, which is: I am forgetting what my students look like.

Not in a broad sense, of course. But a student of mine pulled her mask down in class to have a sip of water and it struck me that I hadn’t seen her mouth in a year.

Okay, so that’s a pretty odd observation to make, but I made it, and there we are. Then I started thinking about it, and I realized that there is no small number of students whose mouths I haven’t seen since February of last year.

And your mouth is half of your face!

And, okay, I teach theater, so I’m sort of hyper-aware of the amount of information that gets conveyed between people through the use of the face, and … we’re covering our faces up (those of us who are attempting to help, in our own little way, our society to get through this mess OKAY NO MORE SOAPBOX), and it’s doing this strange thing to our interactions.

I mean, we can see each other’s eyes, and that’s not nothing, but you take away facial expressions, and you suddenly have a lot less information when you’re talking to somebody.

It’s just a very strange phenomenon, to have that strange moment of “oh, right, *that’s* what you look like” with people you’ve seen every weekday for six months.

It’s just one more way that this pandemic has made us feel alien to each other.

I’ve always thought that Billy Idol song, “Eyes Without a Face” was sort of creepy and beautiful. (I can’t claim to have ever paid attention to the lyrics.) I heard it the other day and I realized… so many of us, now, are eyes without a face to each other.

These are strange times.

P.S. I learned that after shooting the video for “Eyes Without a Face”, Billy Idol’s contact lenses had fused to his corneas, and he had to have surgery to have them removed, so THAT’S HORRIFYING.

P.P.S. I also learned that “Eyes Without a Face” was first a film, and the images from it are …unsettling. Do a google search. Or better yet, don’t.

P.P.P.S. I’ve also decided, after thinking about mouths for the past couple days, that “mouth” is one of the worst words in the English language.


Clearing the Poison


I’ve sort of made it an unofficial guideline — not a rule, but a guideline — to steer away from politics and away from negativity when I can, here at the ol’ blarg. I don’t always succeed, but it keeps me from spiraling into rants and endless anger … or at least from doing so here in the digital space.

But with so many things still locked down, and so many of us still living half-lives thanks to COVID, there is a relative dearth of things to think about or write about. I mean, sure, the world’s still spinning, but what’s new with *me*? What’s unique to *my* experience that merits spinning off 300-1000 words here in the digital space?

Very little.

I keep my head down, I go to work, I wear my mask, I repeat. I go for my runs, I try to work out, I try to get some words on the page every day. I keep pushing forward. Try not to get lost in despair at how absolutely moronic people can be, and how horrible they can be to each other.

Still, it’s hard not to notice that the last few weeks have been … easier, somehow. There’s a little less of the feeling of impending doom from day to day, a little less of the feeling that as bad as things are, they could go from very bad indeed to absolutely catastrophic with a tweet or a speech from a certain individual.

And with that, there’s a little less mental fog. A little less pressure in the chest region. A little less headache over things so fantastically out of my control. The poison is being purged from my personal system, it seems, and that can only be good.

This does not mean, of course, that things are peachy. But it does mean that my mental energies can turn a little more effectively to some of the things that matter, rather than to some of the hopeless distractions that have commanded my attention for the past months.

Things are as stressful as ever, in other words. But this is a stress I welcome. Stress I can live with.

Here’s hoping your days are a little less poisonous, too.


The Easy Way is Not Always the Right Way


In college, I had this roommate, Pete.

He was the nicest guy you could imagine; this gentle giant of a guy. Soft spoken, always smiling, the kind of guy who somehow always seemed ready to drop what he was doing to help you out with whatever minor inconvenience was on your mind at the minute.

Basically the polar opposite of me, which is an amusing enough happenstance, but not particularly relevant.

I don’t remember much about Pete, because I have the memory of a coked-up goldfish on its fortieth trip round the little castle with the little cage-helmeted deep-sea diver (“OMG what is THAT??”). But I will never forget this story.

It’s February. And it’s bloody cold outside; cold for Georgia standards (I was living in Athens at the time, Go Dawgs) and probably even cold for non-Georgia standards… I want to say temperature in the teens? For Georgia, heckin’ cold.

But Pete was from up North.

So when the winter weather came, he was prepared for it.

Anyway, it’s bloody cold out, and we had, overnight, had that just-a-hint-of-precipitation-that-threatens-to-turn-into-snow-but-never-really-does-down-in-Georgia stuff that leaves a sturdy sheen of ice and frost over car windshields and made for some treacherous walks down the front walk. (Georgia does this stuff remarkably, by the way. It comes down liquid and then freezes, so you’re left with this layer of crispy-crunchy-not-quite-snow over a compacted layer of ice. Nasty stuff to hit on the predawn roadways, and nasty to try to chip off your car.)

Ice Falling GIF by Lewis Automotive

But like I said, Pete’s from up North, so he’s totally unfazed. He grabs his marshmallow-man coat and heavy gloves and tromps outside to free his car from its icy prison. And he starts chipping away, like Tim Robbins digging his way to freedom in Shawshank.

And as he goes, he sees, a few units down, a woman, bundled up, walking toward her car, just a few spaces away from him.

A woman carrying a steaming cup.

Now, seeing somebody carrying a steaming cup in the cold weather is no big deal, because coffee’s a thing, right? But still, something resonates in Pete’s lizard brain and he looks again. It’s not a coffee cup she’s carrying. It’s an oversized plastic kitchen cup, a re-usable big-gulp. With no lid. Which can only mean one thing.

It’s boiling water she’s brought out to thaw her windshield out in a big damn hurry.

“Ma’am, don’t!” Pete cries.

She looks at him. Says nothing. Cocks her head sideways that way dogs do.

“You don’t wanna do that. Give me a second, I’ll come scrape your windshield for you.”

I can’t speak to what this woman’s life experience was. I can’t tell you what made her so grumpy, so unresponsive to a good-faith offer of help, so contrary to not only decline Pete’s offer, but to do so with gusto, with flair, with joy, the way she did. I can only report that she sneered, shouted at him, “Oh, PLEASE. I don’t need your help,” and tossed the steaming contents of her cup onto her windshield.

Which promptly spiderwebbed and sank into the front seat of her car.

Look, we get a lot of transplants in Georgia. It’s entirely possible she was from Louisiana or Texas or sunnier states out west, and this was her first brush with snow and cold weather, and she had no idea what rapid thermal expansion can do to a windshield. But there she was, uninformed, presumably in a hurry, certainly not wanting to be inconvenienced by perfectly sensible and, under the circumstances, necessary measures to solve the problem at hand. And rather than accept the help that was offered to her — by somebody who knew what he was talking about, by somebody who was offering to give up some of his time and convenience to help her out, by somebody who just wanted to do right by her — she went ahead with her own thing and ruined her morning (to say nothing of costing herself several hundred dollars) in the process.

I think about that a lot, lately, in the face of current events.

Over 350,000 people have died in this country because so many of us think the way to solve ice on our windshield is to throw boiling water on it.


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