by Maria Ruiz
Maria often shares stories with us about Santa Barbara history, her travel all over the world, her dogs, and life.
I had never heard of it before March, 2020. First, the talk was all about coronavirus. I looked it up on Google and found that most influenzas were coronaviruses. Well, I don’t get any flu easily so I didn’t worry. Then, they found that this is a new virus, one that no one has any immunity for. The Indians had no immunities to the germs the first Europeans brought over, and two-thirds of the original people in the New World were killed by those germs. Was the new virus going to do that to us? We do have a surplus of people on this planet, but who would go first? Old people. Well I’m a few months shy of eighty so I guess that includes me. However, I don’t want to go first. Who’s next?
People with existing health problems. That also, includes me. So far, I’m in for the first two categories. Again, who’s next? So far, people in China, or Italy, or New York with a few more places chomping at the bit to be first, like Brazil or countries in Africa. I’m not in China, Italy—although I would love to be there—or in New York. I don’t foresee me going to any of those places. My future was filled with a couple of appointments with different doctors. Then, one by one, the appointments were canceled. Darn, I had counted on them to get out of the house and go somewhere, anywhere but here. It was not to be, No appointments, no nothing.
Wait, I still could get out to grocery shop. I made my list.
When I arrived at the Walmart, I noticed everyone else was wearing masks or scarves over their nose and mouth, along with latex gloves. A man was standing by the carts and handed me a damp disposable wipe. I wiped the cart handle, disposed of the wipe and entered what can only be called The Twilight Zone.
Zombies wandered the aisles. No one looked at anyone else. Heads down, carts filled with bottled water, packages of paper towels, and little else. I found the canned vegetables aisle and just stared. The shelves were empty. One little can of peas lay on its side at the end of the second shelf.
I then turned toward the aisles that held the paper products. And lo! They too were empty. No toilet paper, no paper towels, no paper napkins, no nothing. Empty shelves. Then I spotted something, fallen to the back was a package with three rolls of store brand paper towels. I usually would not have purchased that brand but considering how empty the shelves were, I grabbed it. If I couldn’t use them, one of my neighbors might.
There were no bags of rice, or pasta. No corn or beans. On to the produce section. Oh blessed. There were oranges, tomatoes, avocados if you took out a bank loan before you came in, and no potatoes. I found some lettuce, a bit on the wilted side, but I would soak it and it would spring back.
Finally I headed toward the checkout lines. The zombies were there, too. Faces hidden by masks, children kept quiet with bags of candy, hands covered by latex gloves. The zombies were standing six feet apart which meant the line wove back through the clothing section. As I waited, I spotted a couple of knit shirts I could use. As my cart filled with things I had had no intention of buying when I came in, we finally moved past all the temptations and finally to the checkout clerk. Behind her mask, she asked if I wanted bags. I nodded, paid, and took my loot out to the car. Back home, a neighbor ventured over to stand in my front yard and yelled at me “I hope you are going to soak all those vegetables and wash the packages, throwing the clothes in the washer.”
I nodded, not wanting to get into any discussions with her. Finally I got everything put away and could sit down with a cup of coffee.
Next time I went out, I too would wear a scarf over my nose and mouth. I would wear plastic gloves over my hands and I would take several washcloths soaked with ammonia in a plastic bag. I would be careful and not look at any of my fellow shoppers and shuffle along. Just another zombie with a simple task, buy what was needed and retreat back into my home quickly, before any viruses realize I’ve gone out.