Apr 1, 2020

Self-Isolation Day 12

It is the first day of April. Outside, spring continues to manifest herself. The grass is visibly greener. Fat robins hop on the lawn. The trees are still bare, but buds are visible if you look closely.

I was out for a walk one sunny day, saying hello to the people I passed, all of us safely on our own sides of the sidewalk but still sharing some camaraderie. The understanding that the world is currently fucked acknowledged with a nod and a smile. (Funny how the things you learn when you are young stay with you. I have never crossed a street without first looking both ways, even if the street is one-way, and I always move to the right side of hallways and sidewalks if someone else is approaching.) A woman was walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk, talking on her cell phone, so she didn't notice me at first. Rather than play a game of pedestrian chicken, I moved to the left side of the sidewalk. When she finally did glance up, she averted her eyes and pulled her scarf up around her face. She was not the first person to avoid direct eye contact, as if the virus is spread by a glance. I bet a scientific study would prove that people who avoid eye contact also currently possess an overabundance of Lysol wipes and rolls of toilet paper.

I went to the grocery store for the first time in over two weeks. An employee stood at the front with a row of freshly sanitized carts. The deli, butcher, and fresh fish sections were closed. There was toilet paper, but they were out of 1% milk and canned tomatoes. Small round signs with the words "Good Neighbour: Limit 1" decreed purchase restrictions and reminders to not be an asshole. I watched a man open plastic containers of strawberries and pick through them, transferring berries to his container with his bare hands. I did not say anything. I just walked past, astonished. Footstep stickers on the floor indicated how far apart we should stand while waiting in line, and a plexiglass partition separated me from the cashier. We exchanged pleasantries like the world hadn't gone mad, and I thanked her and wished her a good day, as I usually do. I realized how much we take for granted living here. I trust that I can zip to the store and pick up a loaf of bread or a quart of milk or a stick of butter when I need one. This is not true for much of the world. It's a good practical lesson to learn.   

Yesterday I was watching the news, listening to the prime minister and reading the global updates and recent death tolls on the ticker at the bottom of the screen, when tears began streaming down my face. There was no thickness in my chest, no sobs wracked my body, just a sudden steady flow of tears. It seems my body had sprung an emotional leak.

Journalists criticize leaders for not giving people a stronger timeline. I understand the desire for a resolution, but we do not know when this will end. (The not knowing is perhaps the hardest thing of all.) We have to accept that and change society and our own behaviours and attitudes accordingly. This is easy for me to say. I live in a house that is paid for with a partner who still has a job. We have a pantry full of food and the means of getting more should we run out. I do not have elderly family members in retirement homes, or a pre-existing medical condition, or children. Still, I do have a well-developed sense of empathy. Hence, perhaps, the tears.     

Some people continue to be ignorant, selfish jerks. Many more people are proving that humanity is better than those jerks. Should I encounter a man picking through strawberries in the future, I will say something.